One of London’s favourite places for architecture and art is now offering even more for visitors to explore. As part of an ongoing restoration project, the former home of the distinguished architect Sir John Soane (famed for the Bank of England commission) has expanded as a visitor attraction and opened No 12 Lincoln’s Inn Fields to the public, providing new exhibition space, a shop and visitor facilities, and re-opening the Breakfast Room, restored during the 1990s. Behind the scenes, new conservation studios will make it possible to restore and protect the museum’s collections for the future.
Soane purchased three properties in Lincoln’s Inn Fields, beginning with No 12 which he rebuilt from 1792-4, moving on to No 13 in the early 1800s and finally completing No 14 in 1824.
During his post as Professor of Architecture at the Royal Academy, Soane made the unusual decision to allow his students access to his eclectic collections of drawings, antiquities and artefacts and a vast library of over 7,000 books, now universally known as the Academy of Architecture. It is thought his decision was prompted by his disappointment at his sons’ lack of passion for architecture and reluctance to follow in his footsteps.
After his wife’s death in 1815 the architect continued to reside in the property, adding to his prized collections, which remain in situ. Four years prior to Soane’s death in 1837 the property and its contents were granted Museum Status for the future enlightenment of ‘amateurs and students’.
The museum’s £7 million restoration project, entitled Opening up the Soane, will improve existing spaces and in 2013-14 will culminate in the public access of more of Soane’s private apartments, from his bathroom to the mysterious book passage.
Follow one of the new museum trails, downloadable from their website prior to visiting, to gain a greater insight into the paintings, architectural drawings and opulent interior design flourishes that combine to make this heritage attraction utterly unique.
Sir John Soane’s Museum, 13 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London. Open Tues to Sat, 10am-5pm.