Sir John Soane Museum Foundation


An educational & enrichment program of Sir John Soane's Museum Foundation

Past Soane Seminars

SPRING of 2009 - SESSION 4

Monday, 18 May 2009 - 6:30 pm

Transforming the Skyline: Three Women Architects
A Soane Seminar of the
“Thoroughly Modern Soane” Richard H. Driehaus Series

A talk with:  Deborah Berke, Audrey Matlock, Annabelle Selldorf
with Suzanne Stephens, Architectural Record - Moderator

at The Union Club,
101 East 69th Street, New York City

Jacket and tie required for men;  no cell phones

Tickets:  $25 members, $35 non-members;  Patrons $80

As part of the “Thoroughly Modern Soane” series, the Soane Foundation is presenting “Transforming the Skyline,” a lecture/discussion by three leading female architects who have each completed apartment buildings in New York. The architects, Deborah Berke, Audrey Matlock, and Annabelle Selldorf, have brought innovative design to an area – the private apartment house – that for decades was considered the territory of commercial architects who designed banal buildings with little sensitivity to the urban milieu.  The three architects will discuss their specific contributions to this building type, as well as the challenges of designing architecture of quality in New York City.

Deborah Berke (top photo) - This well-known New York-based architect and teacher recently succeeded in creating a high profile condominium on Bond Street via a low-keyed design strategy: 48 Bond’s sleek black granite and zinc façade comes to downtown properly dressed, in black. Located on a block off the Bowery newly transformed by several luxury condominiums, the 11-story residence reflects Berke’s design intelligence and sensitivity as well as the expanded capabilities of her firm. Among Deborah Berke and Partners Architects’s ever more ambitious mixed-use, retail, arts-related, and residential commissions are 21C Museum Hotel in Louisville, Kentucky; the Irwin Union Bank in Columbus, Indiana; and the new Marianne Boesky Gallery astride Chelsea’s High Line. Berke’s award-winning work has been featured in Architecture, Index, Interior Design, Metropolis, New York Magazine, The New York Times, Vanity Fair, Vogue, Wallpaper and other publications.

Audrey Matlock (middle photo) -  The zig-zag cascade of blue glass fronting the new Chelsea Modern condominium on West 18th Street is a eye-catching addition to the New York streetscape. Its designer, Audrey Matlock, brought to the 12-story building project some 30 years of experience as a teacher of architecture and a practitioner who led design efforts in some of the world’s most prominent architectural offices, including Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, and Perkins and Will. Since establishing Audrey Matlock Architect in 1993, Matlock has designed a range of commercial and residential projects, most recently a spectacular minimalist house in the Catskills that invites the outdoors indoors via transparent glass walls, a shared palette of neutral tones, and indoor/outdoor fireplace. Matlock’s work has been published widely and honored by the American Institute of Architects (AIA), Progressive Architecture, Society of American Registered Architects, and the Chicago Athenaeum. Although only recently open for occupancy, 447 West 18th Street already has received recognition from the American Institute of Architects and the Society of American Registered Architects.

Annabelle Selldorf (bottom photo) -  One of New York City’s most sought after architects, Annabelle Selldorf has carved her reputation  in large part by her  exquisite remodeling of the Neue Galerie, a museum for German and Austrian art on Fifth Avenue and East 86 Street. In 2007, she completed the co-design the Urban Glass House condominium (begun with Philip Johnson) and this year opens her latest project, an 11-story on West 19th Street for which she designed both the interiors and exterior. Distinguished by dark bands of midnight-blue glazed terracotta, 520 West Chelsea forms part of a new zone for vanguard and luxury design on the westernmost edge of Chelsea that includes Audrey Matlock’s 447 West 18th Street and buildings by Frank Gehry, Jean Nouvel, and Robert A.M. Stern. Selldorf’s firm, Selldorf Architects, has won awards over the years for a body of work that includes institutional, commercial, and high-end retail and residential projects. Annabelle Selldorf serves on the Board of Directors of The Architectural League of New York and the Design Trust for Public Space.

WINTER of 2009 - SESSION 3
Tuesday, 13 January 2009 - 6:30 pm

The Janus Face of Modernity: Comcast and Fifteen Central Park West
A Soane Seminar of the “Thoroughly Modern Soane” Richard H. Driehaus Series

A talk by  architect Robert A. M. Stern,
introduced by Robert Ivy, Editor-in-chief, Architectural Record

presented by the SOANE FOUNDAITON
with co-sponsor

at The Union Club,
101 East 69th Street
New York City

PHOTO CREDIT:  Peter Aaron / Esto

ROBERT A. M. STERN will speak in the Thoroughly Modern Soane series on Tuesday, 13 January 2009 about his design for 15 Central Park West (New York City) and Comcast Tower (Philadelphia). He will be addressing how both relate to Soane's principles, even though one employs a traditional classical vocabulary and the other a modern one. The 15 CPW building represents the investigation of Soanian themes of monumentality and abstraction (the way Soane used them for example in the Bank of England) yet here applied and scaled to a domestic setting. With the discussion of the Comcast tower he will explore how Soane's use of light and space influenced his design for the glass curtain wall and the outdoor plaza/and lobby.

SPRING of  2008 - SESSION 1

The architects Tod Williams and Billie Tsien, acclaimed for the American Folk Art Museum in New York (2001), will lead session one.  

Their firm was recently selected to design the new museum for the incomparable Barnes Collection, to be built on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia.

Full details and for reservations, see below

Billie Tsien and Tod Williams


Monday, 3 March 2008, 6:00pm
The Union Club, 101 East 69th Street, New York City –
Business Attire required.


Billie Tsien was born in Ithaca, New York in 1949.  She received undergraduate degree in Fine Arts from Yale in 1971 and her Masters in Architecture from UCLA in 1977.

Tod Williams was born in Detroit in 1943.  He received both his Bachelors and Masters of Fine Arts and Architecture from Princeton University in 1965 and 1967 respectively
Tsien and Williams have worked together since 1977 and have been in partnership since 1986. 

Their work includes the Neurosciences Institute in La Jolla, California and American Folk Art Museum in New York City.

FALL of  2008 - SESSION 2

Monday, 27 October 2008 - 6:30 pm

at The Union Club,
101 East 69th Street
New York City

Business Attire required

Daniel Libeskind

Daniel Libeskind has more than once named Sir John Soane (1753-1837) as the architect he most admires.

To discover what the Polish-born deconstructivist sees in the oeuvre of the British classicist, join this off-the-cuff conversation with Robert Ivy, Editor-in-Chief of Architectural Record—and catch Libeskind’s thoughts on post-Katrina housing, skyscrapers in Korea, the World Trade Center, and more.

Libeskind was already regarded as one of the most influential minds in architecture when in 2001 his popular reputation soared with the unveiling of the radically designed Jewish Museum in Berlin, one of the first buildings designed after German reunification. With his subsequent appointment as the master plan architect for the reconstruction of the World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan, his name is now a household word.

Currently Studio Daniel Libeskind is at work on more than 40 major commissions from around the world, including one which promises to become New York City’s tallest residential building.

Back Story: Our World and Soane is presented through the 2008 Soane Seminars Thoroughly Modern Soane, an ongoing series of conversations sponsored by the Sir John Soane’s Museum Foundation in conjunction with Architectural Record magazine, with special support from Richard H. Driehaus.

Each session invites an innovative architect to discuss his or her debt to the early 19th-century architecture of Sir John Soane. The investigation is apropos: Soane himself experimented with the use of simple masses, clean lines and forms, and dramatic manipulation of light and reflective surfaces.

Full bio for Daniel Libeskind >


Suzanne Stephens is a member of the Board of Directors of Sir John Soane’s Museum Foundation.  She teaches architectural criticism at Barnard College and is a deputy editor of Architectural Record magazine.

Our first session will be held at the Union Club on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.  Note: Business Attire Required

Sessions - $30 per session, or Seminar Patron at $80 per session (includes a private reception following the talk).


Whilst Soane’s idiosyncratic and very personal style of architecture and design had its share of critics during his lifetime, his stripped down classicism found new admirers in the 20th century and continues to attract appreciation from new generations. Architects admire his handling of space and light and his buildings and ideas are regarded as stimulating and relevant to architectural and interior design ideas of the 21st century.

But it was not until the 1920s that Soane’s work found a persuasive champion in the unlikely figure of Roger Fry. As the organizer of two pioneering exhibitions in 1910 and 1912 Fry had brought the new French art from Manet to Picasso to a somewhat dull London art scene, and he had since become the English spokesman for Modernism. The controversial destruction of Soane’s masterpiece, The Bank of England, in 1925 ironically galvanized public attention on Soane’s work.

Others followed: Mario Praz, the Italian writer and connoisseur, and the architect and polemicist Professor Sir Albert Richardson were key figures in the first half of the twentieth century in promoting the Regency Revival, and Soane’s work and Museum in particular.  English architects Sir Giles Gilbert Scott (the designer behind the famous K2 red telephone box) and Raymond Erith, owe much to Soane – whilst in the United States Robert Venturi’sComplexity and Contradiction in Architecture’ (1966) looked for ambiguities and complexities in the architecture of the past that would reinforce a contemporary architecture of richness and meaning. Venturi drew attention to many of theses qualities in Soane’s work; the complex combinations of shapes in his ceilings, the partition of spaces in rooms in the form of suspended arches, the intricacies of planning and of spaces within spaces, and the layering of canopies and domes.

During the Postmodern era of the later 1970s and 1980s there have been many reflections of Soanean themes amongst a generation of architects and designers who find inspiration in Soane’s ideas. Philip Johnson, Michael Graves, Juan Navarro Baldeweg, Rafael Moneo and Denise Scott Brown amongst many others have generously acknowledged their debt to Soane and have acknowledged how his Classicism manages to be both conventional and deviant. The fact that Soane’s ideas continue to engage the attention of modern architects and designers working in the early 21st century without inhibiting their own powers of invention, is probably his greatest legacy. And Sir John Soane’s Museum’s role as a place of inspiration for contemporary architects and designers from all over the world is perhaps more important today than ever before.

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