The section of the World | Miguel Ángel Díaz Camacho

El Museo de sir John Soane
Sir John Soane’s Museum

The idea of hoarding the universal history of the architecture, the sculpture and the painting, amazes and pulls down to equal parts. If the chamber of the exchequers forms a part besides a domestic program, we are before a seductora entelequia of to live: the life like permanent dip in the culture; the collection like the representation itself of his inhabitant and creator; the house like summary of the universe.

The house John Soane‘s museum in Lincoln’s Inn Fields occupies three consecutive housings sewed thanks to the successive projects of the own one Soane.1 To the longitudinal structure of the houses between dividing, there is opposed the transverse disposition of the museum, installed in the later part as element vertebrador of three buildings.

The transverse section reveals a pre-modern conception of the space, presenting a continuous fluid and simultaneously qualifying the light of every stay from a sophisticated catalogue of vaults and lucernarios. The collection, it is necessary and jealous acquired during the whole life, floods everything, dissolving the presence of the architecture in a heterogeneous atmosphere saturated of images of unlike origin:

La sección transversal revela una concepción pre-moderna del espacio, presentando un continuo fluido y a la vez cualificando la luz de cada estancia desde un sofisticado catálogo de bóvedas y lucernarios. La colección, precisa y celosamente adquirida durante toda una vida, lo inunda todo, disolviendo la presencia de la arquitectura en una atmósfera heterogénea saturada de imágenes de procedencia dispar:

“Soane’s house is Soane’s history, Soane’s autobiography, an autobiography that would force, on the other hand, to an interpretation of the house in literary key: […] the autobiography, the house, is the most royal version of the life, of a life in which the world of the wished fiction interbreeds with the representation of the paper that each one plays in her”.2

The house John Soane’s museum appears as an anthology of the World, an office,3 a Wunder Kämmerlein, a place from which to summon the history of the Culture as own: an exercise of submission from one of the mirages of conocimiento.4 As if to be a real architect was necessary not already to know the Architecture, but diseccionar his own nature; to offer the whole life to his study, collection, drawing and classification; to turn the culture and the existence into a luck of encyclopaedic religion.

Only this way there is understood the abysmal coexistence of works of Canaletto and lean Egyptians; Turner’s pictures and Etruscan glasses; bronzes of the former Rome and prehistoric figures of terracotta or Greek cornices. As the reflection disfigured of his biography, the house tesauro of John Soane the wretch offers and simultaneously sublime exploration of yes same: a section of the World.

Miguel Ángel Díaz Camacho. PhD Architect
Madrid. February 2015.
Author of architectural paragraphs. #arquiParrafos


1. The family establishes itself in nº12 about 1792; in 1813 they occupy the new house in nº13; after the death of his wife in 1815, in 1823 one buys and rehabilitates the house placed in nº14, completing the series of three houses of brick between dividing.

2. Rafael Moneo on the house John Soane’s museum: “4 appointments / 4 notes”, Architectures Bis 38-39, July – October, 1981.

3. Félix de Azúa refers to the office as the first form of museum, a predecessor of the public space; Soane’s case turns out to be a paradigmatic case. Félix de Azúa sees conference in the seminar Speculative Architecture, UCJC – Prado Museum, in February – May, 2015.

4. In spite of the apparent implicit representation of the power in the collector, in spite of the illusory resource of the implicit eternal thing in the own collection, in spite of the professional success or the own pleasure of creating and designing his house museum, “John Soane was not a happy man”. To see Sir John Soane’s Museum London, London, Merrel Publishers Limited, 2009, page 31.


Miguel Ángel Díaz Camacho

Doctor en Arquitectura, Decano de la Facultad de Tecnología y Ciencia UCJC. Presidente de la Asociación Sostenibilidad y Arquitectura,  perteneciente al Consejo Superior de los Colegios de Arquitectos de España. Director de MADC Arquitectos, estudio profesional con premios en concursos nacionales e internacionales, en la actualidad desarrolla proyectos en España y Noruega. Escritor y crítico de arquitectura, es autor de los libros “Párrafos de Arquitectura. Core(oh)grafías” (2016) y “Arquitectura y Cambio Climático” (2018).

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