Harry Adams: Visions of a Future London
The Soane Museum Study Group is an open forum for scholars – both established and emerging – to present new research into an aspect of architectural history and/or Soane’s collection.
Proposals for building, or rebuilding, bridges across the Thames can spark vociferous debate, as the recent furore over the ill-fated Garden Bridge has demonstrated. But such discussions are often revealing of contemporary (and conflicting) expectations of London’s future. In 1796, George Dance the Younger (1741-1825), Clerk of the City Works to the Corporation of London, produced a set of radical proposals for rebuilding the Legal Quays and London Bridge. The scheme entailed doubling the bridge and creating monumental quayside piazzas on either side of the Thames. Unsurprisingly, it was quickly dismissed as too expensive and the Corporation threw its weight behind the construction of the West India Docks on the Isle of Dogs.
Despite its ultimate failure, however, Dance’s design went on to enjoy considerable public exposure thanks to the printmaker William Daniell (1769-1837), who produced two popular aquatint perspectives of the scheme, and the theatre scenery painter Robert Andrews (fl.1789-1819), who used Daniell’s prints as the inspiration for a huge theatrical ‘panorama’ displayed at Sadler’s Wells Theatre between 1801 and 1803.
This talk will consider Dance’s scheme and its visual afterlives not simply as relics of a failed planning exercise, but as examples of a ‘paper architecture’ that helped to configure expectations about London’s future form during a period of considerable social and economic uncertainty. In doing so, the talk will explore how two-dimensional representations of the built form can function as powerful signifiers and even actors in the urban planning process.
About the speaker
Harry Adams is a PhD candidate at the Courtauld Institute of Art, London. Supervised by Professor Christine Stevenson, his research explores George Dance the Younger’s urban planning proposals for the Corporation of London between 1768 and 1815.
About the event
Please note that this event takes place in the Museum's Seminar Room at Number 14 Lincoln's Inn Fields. Doors open at 6pm for drinks, with the talk at 6.30pm. On arrival, please come to the door of no. 14, which will be staffed from 6pm onwards