The Return of the Past: Postmodernism at Sir John Soane’s Museum



When Sir John Soane built the facade that now fronts his house, it would have been considered incredibly distinctive; covered in white norfolk brick, it would have stood out as an utterly unique and striking building, with symmetrical nods to classic forms proudly standing out. If the outside hints at the postmodern architectural movement that was to to arrive in the latter half of the 20th Century, it is on the inside that it seems to re-invent itself, mish-mashing layouts and rooms, questioning just how far it can play with the positioning of objects in the collection, and the internal spaces themselves. The interior reveals itself as a future postmodern ideal.

Fitting then, that a Postmodernism architecture exhibition is currently showing at the museum and a terrific one it it is too. Focusing on the ‘early’ moments in British postmodern architecture, drawings and replica models are brought together to reveal a wonderful insight to the architectural process and how the past was brought back to life as a response to the modernist movements that were gathering pace.

One of the defining characteristics of Postmodernism is that whilst all else in the arts world often takes itself incredibly seriously, the humour and parody that is rife in postmodern works ensure there’s always a lightness and thus a simplification of grand, serious classical themes. The tribute becomes a pastiche, the pastiche a tribute. Below are some Timney Fowler designs from the 1980s that adhere to those values.


Watch this space for news of a future collaborative project between Sue Timney Design and The Sir John Soane’s Museum.

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