Friday, November 26, 2010

Soane Museum and Christ Church Regatta

Some days in Oxford feel like I'm overscheduling myself to the brink. Today was one of those.

This morning I was off to London for an architecture class field trip to the Soane Museum, the rather eccentric home of preeminent 19th century British architect John Soane. In describing this building, let me emphatically repeat myself: eccentric beyond belief. Photography wasn't allowed inside, so I only have this lone shot of the exterior, but in any case I don't think pictures could capture the quirky feel of the entire building. John Soane was a man who lived for architectural whimsy, it seems, and who was also captivated by the ideals of his own designs, especially in terms of the romantic and the sublime. His house (actually, three connected London townhouses) is a rabbit warren and mirror-gallery and exhibit-hall of antiques and unique architectural inventions. The ceilings vault and curve, there are unexpected nooks in the corners, walls give way to hidden painting displays, and the entire back portion is devoted to a gallery containing ancient stone fragments, contemporary paintings, and a chamber where Soane liked to imagine that a solitary monk lived. Light plays throughout the building in odd ways, shining through colored glass here before creating an intentional sense of gloom there, all striving toward a strangely dramatic and melancholy mood. The oddest part is that the house was this way when Soane lived there over 150 years ago, and has only been preserved for the museum! Probably the strangest house I've been to, by far.

After a whirlwind tour of the Soane Museum, during which I got to see some fun London streets and squares I hadn't encountered before, I headed right back to Oxford. The reason? This week is the annual Christ Church novice regatta, in which my Corpus Christi boat was participating. I say was because, unfortunately, we lost this afternoon after winning yesterday's second-round race by a whopping six lengths. No quarterfinals for us tomorrow. But no regrets: we rowed as well as we ever have, and I (for once) got to experience a competitive sport that doesn't involve horses. Rowing all-out for the duration of a race is hard! I go back to the saddle with a fresh appreciation for other sports, as well as a newfound sense of gratitude that my normal life doesn't involve horribly early mornings turning into an icicle out on a pitch-black river. Rowing is quintessentially Oxford, though, and I'm happy I embraced that.

Photo by Celine Zeng. I'm the one in the stroke seat. How strange that I'm leaving so soon, yet these Oxford people will continue to go about their lives...

1 comment:

  1. How about this for a design for a wall painting, in the tried-and-true Art Nouveau style?:, by the famous English artist, Audrey Beardsley himself. You can also order a canvas print of the picture from