“A Home, an Office and a University”- Sir Albert Richardson (1880-1964) in 1956, when asked to describe his home in Ampthill, Bedfordshire.
Fifty two years ago Sir Albert Richardson, P.R.A (1880-1964), architect, educator and collector passed away at his home in Ampthill. In September 2013, after 7 years of failed negotiations with the National Trust, Richardson’s unique collection was removed to Christie’s auction house in London from his home, an 18th century house that remained without electricity so that Richardson could authentically appreciate its Georgian architecture.
A leading architect of the Neo-Georgian movement, head of the Bartlett School of Architecture for 27 years, lecturer at the Slade School of Art, President of the Royal Academy, and awarded the RIBA gold medal, Richardson was a pivotal figure in British architecture. However in his life he was derided for his inability to break from a self-imposed straitjacket of the Neo-Georgian, and categorised as a living Georgian by the national press and popular critics Ian Nairn and John Summerson.
As a response to the sale of Richardson’s collection, and the opportunity for a critical re appraisal of Richardson just over 50 years since his passing, the design project proposes a museum to hold Richardson’s collection, coupled with a satellite campus for The Bartlett School of Architecture and The Slade School of Art. The project is intended both as a critical re-appraisal of Sir Albert Richardson, and as a design project in its own right, responsive to its physical and historical context.
Sited within a disused quarry, on axis with the model housing by Richardson for the nearby brickworks at Stewartby, Bedfordshire, and a short distance from Ampthill, the proposed museum sits upon a membrane that is level with the land surrounding the quarry. Beneath the membrane is hung a billowing Italianate fabric landscape (a response to the local Italian migration) – over a garden of architecture, a cabinet for multiple collections – comprising objects, studios and machinery.
This project engages with Richardson’s work and ideas, beyond the myth perpetuated by him, in order to address his multiple conflicting personae, the ensuing paradoxes leading to an almost total absence from the public consciousness today. The same man who would be taken to dinner parties around Ampthill in a sedan chair and Georgian costume, also taught a young Peter Smithson, who I suggest practiced Richardson’s teaching at the Upper Lawn Pavilion and Hunstanston School, and, at the same time as Le Corbusier, lectured in the 1920s about the possibilities of architecture emulating the modern motor car and tube train.
Current historiography is defined by written interpretation, this project's deviated history is defined instead by drawn tectonic speculation, an appropriate tool for interpreting a person who invariably spoke through drawing rather than writing. Tower Hill Community
An Italianate vision - experimenting with Richardson's romanticism of the Italian landscape, and remembering the local Italian migration to the nearby brickworks. The membrane floats above the disused quarry, upon which the Museum sits, and below which the new Slade and Bartlett facilities are located
On axis with the model housing at Stewartby by Richardson, the proposal is situated on the existing quarry floor, level with the land around the quarry, the painted membrane mimicking the pools within the quarrys at sunset
An investigation of the architect Sir Albert Richardson (1880-1964) told through an architectural proposal: models become buildings, multiple architectures are present, and weather is represented - rather than existing
This Collection House contains objects from the Kitchen, Scullery and Dining Room, the principal rooms for preparing and eating food.
The billowing Copper curtain fixed in a state suggesting the presence of weather within the bell jar. This refers to Richardson’s concern to capture a particular mood through the absence of electrical heating and lighting, the Collection Houses are contained within bell jars, where weather is represented rather than existing, creating a mood whilst preserving the collection.
The manifestation of Richardson’s Garden Temple (bottom), now containing pieces from the Mithras Temple, London. It leads to the Crypt of Sir Albert Richardson (top), a symbolic space which is the physical manifestation of a shadow, created by an object placed at the Museum’s location on the anniversary of Richardson’s death.
Beneath the membrane is hung a billowing Italianate fabric landscape over a cabinet for multiple collections - comprising objects, buildings and machinery. Light enters the subterranean landscape through glass apertures in the membrane, distorted by a film of water
A garden of architecture spreads out below the membrane/sky, the Museum expands into the quarry landscape, acquiring objects from demolished or sold houses, Richardson's growing collection in dialogue with the Bartlett through the creation of student fabrications