The Berlage


On Commissioning

Niall Hobhouse

Shatwell, in Somerset, has been a working farm for two hundred years. Since 2010 it has been adapted to house the activities of Drawing Matter, a charity focused on architectural education and publication, in association with a major collection of design drawings. (2000 student or research visitors annually, and some 20,000 drawings from five centuries and five continents). Built projects on the site, small and large, include work by Cedric Price, Peter Smithson, Alvaro Siza, Hugh Strange, Clancy Moore, SCdLP and Tuomas Toivonen. Niall Hobhouse will use the occasion of this lecture to reflect on what he has learnt from this process of reuse, about new ideas on the countryside as a site of traditionally urban activities, about the interaction of architecture and landscape, about the role of the drawing collection—and its constant visitors—as a major influence.

Niall Hobhouse collects drawings by architects. He curates exhibitions, and writes about buildings, landscape and museums. He established Drawing Matter Trust to explore the role of drawing in architecture, architectural education and exhibition. Drawing Matter operates from Shatwell Farmyard in Somerset, where a series of built projects by contemporary architects—including Cedric Price, Peter Smithson, Alvaro Siza, and Stephen Taylor—have been developed in parallel with the work of the Trust. He is formerly a Governor of the London School of Economics (Chair of the Advisory Board, Cities Programme), Trustee of the Sir John Soane’s Museum and of the Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montreal.

The Berlage Sessions, a seven-part seminar series entitled “Into Completion,” examines the chronological lives of buildings. From responding to a client’s brief and the postwar organization compared to the global expansion of large-scale architecture firms, to building optimization and construction detailing, the series explores the processes and components of realizing contemporary architecture.

Image: Shatwell Valley, Summer 2021 (Credit: Sue Barr)

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