Out of Character
Out of Character is an installation of four architectural characters in the Sir John Soane Museum.
In 1812, John Soane wrote ‘Crude Hints towards an History of my House’, a strange and perplexing text in which he imagined his home as a ruin centuries in the future, inspected by visitors who speculate on its origins and function. In particular Soane suggested that visitors might infer the Museum to have been inhabited by four characters: a Lawyer, a Monk, a Magician and an Architect.
Over 200 years later, Studio MUTT has brought these characters to life as architectural compositions of ornament, colour and form. The four characters have then been installed as ‘inhabitants’ in different locations in the Museum. Soane’s original manuscript of ‘Crude Hints’ is displayed in the Foyle Space alongside a series of wall hangings, each illustrating the peculiar and fantastical narratives behind the characters, with extracts from the text.
Brightly coloured, rich in decoration and drawing from the wealth of source material in the Museum and Soane’s work, the characters are designed to communicate with the spaces they inhabit and the visitors who encounter them, revealing how ornament, colour and character can give life to buildings of all scales.
The Lawyer comprises a powerful and sturdy base, with a measure delicately balancing on its head. A crown is symbolically placed on one side, a weight on the other. The decorative and formal elements give the character a performative, stage-like presence, redolent of a barrister in court.
Secreted away within the dark gothic space of the Monk’s Cell sits the Monk, a tormented soul, silent in repose. An abstract, diagrammatic plan is lifted upright and transposed into figurative physical form. A cross dangles in front of his face, with ornament incised into his self-flagellated body.
Amid a collision of steps and arches, the Magician appears as a spatial impossibility, appearing too large, too vulgar for the space it sits within. Misunderstood imagery from Egypt and Asia infiltrates the Magician’s strange and conflicting world, with pagan and masonic influences simmering in the background.
Looking both across and down is the voyeuristic eye of the Architect: watching, recording, copying. The Architect is formally portrayed struggling between a desire for timeless historical reverence, and to be part of fast moving popular culture, resulting in an anxious and confused persona.