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Designs for a greenhouse, 2 March 1789 (1)


Soane's office 'Journal No 1' has an entry for 3 March 1789: 'left a letter & Design for / Green house ...' that was presumably a 'fair' version of one the designs catalogued here.
The (recto) plan shows a wall of 42 feet with projecting walls measuring 10 feet at each end and with a segmental front wall made up of five glazed and hinged openings fronted by six tree trunk columns with minimal Doric capitals. The roof is conical or, considering the plan, presumably semi-conical and thatched with (?) reed. The plan is marked 40 feet wide internally and 20 feet deep.
The brown pen and pencil designs on the verso vary in their dimensions from that of the recto design. Thus the brown pen plan is marked 22 feet deep and 33 feet wide, the columns are marked 11:0, the section is marked 10:6 high. The pencil plan is labelled 33 and 22 feet and has seven (rather than six) columns. Soane's useful list of building materials (on the verso) added up to £135.
This unusual design for a greenhouse is in a primitive rustic style that Soane first used in 1781 for a dairy with a thatched roof and columns made from 'the trunks of Elm Trees with the bark on'. That design was inspired by George Dance (1741-1825), Soane's mentor (see Notes to Hamels Park, Hertfordshire: dairy ...). Another essay in a similar rustic style is an early, undated design for a cottage with a thatched pyramidal roof pasted into Soane's personal album (volume 42/137-8 see 'Original Sketches / Miscellaneous / Architectural / Subjects').
The idea of the primitive 'hut' has been pursued since at least Vitruvius's De Architectura, (first printed in 1486-92 see book 2, chap.1.5) through Abbé Laugier's Essay on architecture, 1755 to J.Rykwert in On Adam's house in paradise: the idea of the primitive hut in architectural history, 2nd ed., 1981.



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Sir John Soane's collection includes some 30,000 architectural, design and topographical drawings which is a very important resource for scholars worldwide. His was the first architect’s collection to attempt to preserve the best in design for the architectural profession in the future, and it did so by assembling as exemplars surviving drawings by great Renaissance masters and by the leading architects in Britain in the 17th and 18th centuries and his near contemporaries such as Sir William Chambers, Robert Adam and George Dance the Younger. These drawings sit side by side with 9,000 drawings in Soane’s own hand or those of the pupils in his office, covering his early work as a student, his time in Italy and the drawings produced in the course of his architectural practice from 1780 until the 1830s.

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Contents of Designs for a greenhouse, 2 March 1789 (1)