Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Friday, December 12, 2008

Malplaquet House

Tim Knox, director of Sir John Soane's Museum and Todd Longstaffe-Gowan, a landscape architect, live in Malplaquet House in London's East End. Built in 1740 for a wealthy merchant, the 20 plus room mansion survived the Blitz and being chopped up into various shop spaces before being rescued by the Spitalfields Trust from demolition.

Tim and Todd acquired the mansion in 1998 and began an extensive stabilization preserving as much of the historical fabric as possible. They then began filling the rooms with their vast collection of religious artifacts, taxidermy animals and other curiosities acquired from the markets and auction houses of England.

A chimneypiece, constructed of plaster by set designer Christopher Hobbs, holds a commanding position in the Sarcophagus room. Allegorical figures representing Africa and North America, where Tim and Todd were raised, support the cornice. In the center are portraits of the owners and a human skull found by the sculptor in the rubble of an old YMCA.

Portraits of nuns line the walls and taxidermy animals peer from under heavy Victorian furniture.
A stained-glass window depicting the Crucifixion provides privacy in the bathroom.

Outside, Todd has filled the garden with ancient tree ferns and religious statuary.