"You take a canvas, divide it up like a checkerboard... and go from there." - Man Ray

Sir John Soane: An English Architect, An American Legacy
Sir John Soane: An English Architect, An American Legacy
About the film
  • Year
  • Categories
  • Duration 62 minutes
  • Producers Edgar Howard, Muffie Dunn, William Palin
  • Director Murray Grigor

All great art engages in a dialogue with the past.

Architecture is no exception, as this film shows in its examination of the legacy of Sir John Soane (1753-1837), an English architect of rare genius whose influence on a generation of America’s foremost architects is profound.

Among them, Henry Cobb, Michael Graves, Philip Johnson, Richard Meier, Robert Stern, Denise Scott Brown and Robert Venturi, all acknowledge their debt to Soane and his idiosyncratic reinterpretations of the architecture of antiquity.

This film investigates the influence of antiquity on Soane by following his Grand Tour footsteps through Rome and Sicily, as well as the ways in which his stripped-down classical style helped guide American architects out of the strictures of Modernism.

Exquisite footage of Soane’s masterpieces, including of his residence museum in London and the Dulwich Picture Gallery, is intercut with detailed views of works by the Americans, including Philip Johnson’s Guest House, Richard Meier’s Getty Museum, Michael Graves’ own residence and Newark Museum renovation, Henry Cobb’s Payson Building of the Portland Museum of Art as well as the Sainsbury Wing of the National Gallery in London, designed by Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown.

Through interviews and guided tours, these architects, along with architectural historians, Charles Jencks and Christopher Woodward, offer unique insight into the ways in which their works refract the genius of Soane.

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