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Nicholas Hawksmoor's Visionary Architectural Designs

Nicholas Hawksmoor's Visionary Architectural Designs for Ockham Park and Their Amazing Odyssey

Lecture by Prof Pierre du Prey FSA FRSC RAAR (President of the Society for the Study of Architecture in Canada)

An album of Nicholas Hawskmoor material related to the remodelling of Ockham Park, Surrey, has come to rest at the Canadian Centre for Architecture in Montreal after a fascinating odyssey that will revealed in this lecture.

A mini archive unto itself – containing documents that span the years 1723 to 1729, most notably 27 drawings – the Album constitutes the largest body of Hawksmoor material outside his native land. The Album's drawings illustrate a wide variety of architectural representations: evocative rough sketches; neatly drafted plans, elevations, and a presentation perspective; even the cross section of a moulding profile and sophisticated oblique projection drawn to full scale for the plasterers' benefit. The Album's written contents, in the form of two letters and a cost-estimate, furthermore attest to close architect/patron, architect/craftsman relations that lie at the heart of any successful architectural endeavour. The client was Peter King, created Baron King of Ockham when he assumed the post of Lord Chancellor. But the series of topographical views and archival photographs Prof du Prey has assembled shows how little King executed of what his architect proposed; in fact, the early 17th-century manor house at the core of Hawksmoor's project remained virtually intact until destroyed by fire in 1948. Above all, therefore, the Album quintessentially reflects architectural design as an often long-drawn-out and complex process, sometimes resulting in nothing concrete – the stuff that unfulfilled architectural dreams are made of. Despite any personal disappointment Hawksmoor may have felt, he remained a consummate professional to the end, progressively reducing his artistic expectations. 'To meddle in the affair of Building,' he warned Lord King, one must have 'a good deal of patience, as well as money.'


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Society of Antiquaries of London, Burlington House