Tuesday, March 21, 2017


I set up a Slack account for Project Soane and so far there are 3 of us exchanging thoughts merrily on the General feed.  Nathalie and Matthew (henceforth Nat & Matt) are young aspiring architects in the UK.  I've never met them but they got inspired by Project Soane and I enjoy sharing ideas with enthusiastic young people (and older ones for that matter)

I've been awake pretty much all night (thanks Nat) looking into the Privy Council Chamber that Soane designed in the 1820s when he was around the age that I am now, a little older by the time he finished.  Not sure what actually got built, but I do know that it was swept away within a decade or so by further alterations by Barry (the houses of Parliament guy) 

I made this quick model in Family Editor with model lines and a couple of glass extrusions.  It captures the essential geometry, and it was pretty quick to set up.  There's a groin vault formed where a segmental barrel vault meets another barrel vault based on a partial ellipse.  The critical factor is to have a common centre of curvature between the two vaults.  That way they intersect nicely forming straight diagonals in a plan view.  Here's a 3 dimensional version of that principle from a study I did a couple of months ago.

And another snapshot from my first attempts to model the vault used for waiting rooms A & B between the Court Room and the Governor's Office.  This shows how he converts a groin vault into his signature "Starfish" ceiling treatment.  You have to shave off the corners at the intersection to create the arms of the starfish, culminating in a shape at the apex.  In this case a circular hole for a skylight, but often a diamond shaped feature in the centre of the ceiling.

Going back to the model line version I did tonight you can see that there are semi-circles at the ends, and half elipses at the sides.  What Soane did then was to create narrow slots along the sides that shoot up to skylights bringing in light from above. (the blue extrusions in my earlier image)  The plane of the centres of curvature for all 4 arches is shown as dashed lines.  The geometry on which the actual vault is based is highlighted in red: much flatter than the waiting rooms version above.

He used this same general idea many times in different contexts and to quite different effect, which is typical Soane really.  Once he got interested in an idea or a form, he would rework it endlessly to see how far it could be pushed.  The next shot is a quick study I did earlier this year to capture the ceiling of the breakfast room he designed for his own house (now the Soane Museum)  This was painted to look like a trellis feature in a garden with the sky peeping through

I'm starting to call him a Romantic in Workaholic's clothing.  He worried away at his designs, going through multiple options before hitting on the right idea, in some ways he seems like a stubborn plodder almost, but he could be so fanciful, and many of his final designs are just stunning, especially in their treatment of light. 

I'm going to close with a shot of where those waiting rooms are.  It's a section through both of them, looking North towards Tivoli Corner.. You can see the high level windows that bring light into the rooms, They show here as black shapes above black door openings.  And just beyond is a high level window that brings light into the Governor's Room, just squeezing in below the red loop.

The space on the right is by Taylor, the main entrance lobby leading to the Court Suite/Directors Parlours.  It's a domed space with a circular lantern.  In fact, I might as well add one more image now. (It's morning and I'm editing the published post to correct a couple of typos) 

Here is the current state of the model.  It's fairly basic but you can get the idea of how the spaces work.  Feel free to volunteer to join our group and help to add more detail.


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