Step into the whimsical world of 'staffage' within architectural drawings, through a series of playful audiobooks created to accompany our Fanciful Figures exhibition.

Designed with the younger audience in mind, we encourage listeners of all ages to experience five of the exhibits’ artworks through the unique perspective of its most delicate elements, the figures. Much like the Georgian architects who skilfully incorporated these figures into their renderings to suggest scale and depth, these soundscapes endow the silent narratives of the 'staffage' with vibrancy and life.

From the rhythmic clatter of carriages on cobblestones to the soft murmurs of onlookers, the soundscapes invite listeners to lend an ear to the hushed, bustling, or tranquil worlds these figures inhabit.

Shhh... take a moment... and listen!

Part One: Lincoln's Inn Fields

Step into a bustling square where, if you listen closely, the chattering staffages and the clip-clop of horses tell you their secrets of old Lincoln's Inn!

A detail from a perspective view of an alternative vision for Lincoln's Inn Fields, dominated by grand classically-inspired buildings.

Office of Robert Adam, attrib. Joseph Bonomi (1739-1808)
Competition design for Lincoln’s Inn, London, west front facing Lincoln’s Inn Fields, c.1772-74
Pen and wash on laid paper
SM Adam volume 28/13. Photograph: Geremy Butler.

Part Two: Country House

Let's sneak into a secret garden where the wind plays tag with the leaves, and every bird's chirp is a story at the old country house!

A detail from an elevation drawing of a country house, showing a front portico with a horse-drawn carriage approaching.

Office of George Dance the Younger, unknown hand
Elevation for an unidentified screen to a country house, c.1771
Pen, pencil, wash and coloured washes on wove paper
SM D2/8/24. Photograph: Ardon Bar-Hama

Part Three: Bank

Raise your glass in the grandest hall of the Bank of England, where the air shimmers with stories and the walls echo with toasts of joy!

Guests gather at enormous long tables for a banquet in the central hall of Soane's Bank of England.

Joseph Michael Gandy (1771-1843)
Volunteers’ Dinner in the Four Per Cent Office, Bank of England, London, 1801
Pen, wash and coloured washes on laid paper
SM 1/8/7. Photograph: Hugh Kelly

Part Four: Chelsea Hospital

Put on your imagination caps and hear the clink and clatter of a busy day, as Chelsea Hospital grows and glows under the architect's careful eyes!

Builders working in the developing shell of Soane's works at the Chelsea Hospital.

Office of Sir John Soane, unknown hand
Progress drawing showing the interior of the long ward, Infirmary, Royal Hospital, Chelsea, c.1814
Pen, pencil and coloured washes on wove paper
SM 14/7/5. Photograph: Geremy Butler

Part Five: Early Builders

Tread softly into a bygone era where family and flock work together in harmony to raise timbers under the open sky, turning whispers into homes.

Ancient builders, wearing furs, stand within an early wood-beamed structure, as sheep graze nearby.

Office of Sir John Soane, unknown hand
Royal Academy lecture drawing, a primitive hut, c.1806-19
Pen and coloured washes on wove paper
SM 27/2/4. Photograph: Geremy Butler

This project has been curated and designed by Devanshi Rungta, sound production and design by Laura Selby, with expert narration by Dr Frances Sands.