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The Measurers - Three Classicists at RIBA

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Ben Pentreath, George Saumarez Smith & Francis Terry exhibit their classical drawings and work

This drawing of the contents of an abandoned Venetian swimming pool could easily be mistaken as an item of psychogeographic research by a young contemporary architect. Its intense focus on ordinary but dislocated objects suggests there is something to learn about the temporal qualities of the site, and perhaps even the spirit of the place. Who has been here? What kind of life did they lead?

These questions may have been in George Saumarez Smith’s mind as he measured the distance between bicycle, chair and umbrella to produce this marvellous scale drawing, but the reason he drew it has little to do with speculation. Rather, it is what architectural historian Ruth Guilding describes as ‘an exercise in the discipline of observation, distillation and refinement’; a quality most architects would regard as essential. ‘Before we design anything we must first measure other things,’ says Saumarez Smith.

Saumarez Smith is a classical architect who, along with fellow practitioners Francis Terry and Ben Pentreath, has a strong belief in what Terry calls the ‘noble and ancient tradition’ of drawing. In the exhibition programme, Terry writes: ‘It seems to me that the pleasure to be had from seeing the play of light on the surfaces of a classical building provides reason enough for the classical style.’ No matter what you think about the relevance of this kind of architecture today, the beauty and draughtsmanship of these drawings provides reason enough to show them.

Three Classicists will be at the RIBA, 66 Portland Place, London W1, until 29 May. www.threeclassicists.com


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