On The Avenue

Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Soane’s

by Michael Gross Photographed by Julie Skarratt
Friday, September 28, 2018
“When he was born, he didn’t even have an ‘e’ at the end of his name,” Paul Whalen, chairman of the Sir John Soane’s Museum Foundation and, as a longtime partner at Robert A.M. Stern Architects, the designer of such buildings as 15 Central Park West, The Belnord, and 220 Central Park South, was saying.  He was opening the program at the group’s 2018 Visionaries Gala on September 26 , at the Rainbow Room in New York City. The evening celebrated what many consider the best little museum in London. 


Soane, “the son of a bricklayer…really had it going on,” Whalen continued, relating how he’d gone to Italy on the Grand Tour as a young man “and had a strong reaction to very simple architecture.”  He also began a profound self-invention, adding the final silent vowel to the end of his name (on a screen behind Whalen, the letter was added to the caption beneath Soane’s portrait, the extra letter highlighted for emphasis.  “Now,” Whalen continued, “we’re used to people reinventing themselves. It was remarkable at the time.”  Whalen recounted how Soane, “passionate about being remembered…left his house behind” by stage-managing a private act in Parliament to give it to England.  And he concluded by noting that its owner, “inspired by his grand tour” had insured that “his house is on the Grand Tour of the 21st Century.”  


Whalen was followed to the dais by Bruce Boucher, the director of the Sonae’s Museum, who introduced Eric Shiner, Artistic Director of White Cube, who treated the crowd to a tour of his resume before presenting an award medallion featuring Soane in profile to William E. Hunt, chair of the board of trustees of the Carnegie Museum of Pittsburgh, honoring its Hall of Architecture.  Then, Luke Syson, chairman of the European Sculpture and Decorative Arts department of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art gave the evening’s final honor to Robin Standefer and Stephen Alesch of the design firm Roman and Williams, honoring the couple’s altogether ingenious commitment to making historical allusions in their projects, including their ongoing work re-imagining the Met’s British Art galleries.  Following the speeches, the Rainbow Room’s curtain were raised to treat guests to its stunning view of the twinkling Manhattan skyline.


The  evening gathered luminaries in the fields of design, architecture, publishing and philanthropy, including the design writers Wendy Goodman, James Reginato, Mitchell Owens, Wendy Moonan and Christopher Mason and Amy Astley, the editor of Architectural Digest. 


Funds raised will support the restoration of the Sir John Soane’s Museum’s Drawing Office, the only surviving complete work space of an early 19th-century architectural practice, which overlooks the iconic dome area of the Museum. When restored, the Drawing Office will be home to a new residency program  for artists and architects.



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