By Design, a talk series at Sir John Soane’s Museum, in partnership with Luke Irwin, is back for its fourth season. Internationally renowned designers are invited to discuss their practice through a single object from the Museum. In this talk, Alice Rawsthorn talks to landscape architect Tom Stuart-Smith.

Inspired by Sir John Soane’s own extraordinary collection, and co-hosted by Will Gompertz, Director of Arts and Learning at the Barbican, and Alice Rawsthorn, award-winning design critic and author, the series reflects on the power of objects – large or small, mundane or exceptional, aesthetic or utilitarian – to spark new ideas, and act as a spur for different forms of creativity. 

Doors will open at 6:00pm, with a chance to explore the museum by candlelight. The talk runs from 6.30pm to 7.30pm, followed by a drinks reception.

This event is now sold out.


About the speakers

Tom Stuart-Smith is a landscape architect whose work combines naturalism with modernity and built forms with romantic planting. He read Zoology at the University of Cambridge before completing a postgraduate degree in Landscape Design. Tom has since designed gardens, parks and landscapes throughout the world.

Recent projects in the public domain include several projects at Chatsworth, a new public garden at the Hepworth Wakefield, and the masterplan for RHS Garden Bridgewater, which is one of the largest new garden projects in Europe. 2021 saw the completion of a new Islamic garden, Jellicoe Gardens in Kings Cross, commissioned by the Aga Khan Development Network and Argent, and 2022 has seen the dramatic recasting of a garden by St Pauls Cathedral in the City of London which has a 100m² water basin at its centre, reflecting Sir Christopher Wren’s famous dome. Current projects include a new garden at Knepp Castle that seeks to maximise biodiversity, and a new landscape to Aldourie Castle on Loch Ness in Scotland.

Previous projects have included Her Majesty the Queen's Jubilee Garden at Windsor Castle, Trentham Gardens in Staffordshire, the Bicentenary Glasshouse Garden at RHS Garden Wisley and the Keeper’s House Garden at the Royal Academy of Arts.

International projects include Le Jardin Secret in the heart of the medina in Marrakech, a garden located on the waterways near Kottayam in Kerala, and show gardens for the international horticulture exhibition at IGA Berlin 2017 and the international garden expo Beijing 2019.

He has also designed eight award winning gardens for the Chelsea Flower Show, all of which were presented with gold medals and three ‘Best in Show’.

Tom regularly gives talks and lectures, and continues to write occasionally for the Guardian, Financial Times and Daily Telegraph, amongst others. An exhibition on his work, the first about a living garden designer in the UK, was held at the Garden Museum in 2011.

Tom is a Vice President of the Royal Horticultural Society, a Trustee of the Garden Museum, an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects, a Fellow of the Landscape Institute, and a Fellow of the Society of Garden Designers, and a Trustee of The Oak Project.

In May 2021, Thames & Hudson published a critical monograph of his work, written by Tim Richardson, which features twenty-four gardens from around the world.

Throughout his career Tom has also developed his own family garden at home in Hertfordshire, which is open to visitors each summer, by appointment.


Alice Rawsthorn is an award-winning design critic and author, whose books include Design as an Attitude, Hello World: Where Design Meets Life and, most recently, Design Emergency: Building a Better Future, co-written with Paola Antonelli, senior curator of design at MoMA, New York. Alice’s weekly design column for The New York Times was syndicated worldwide for over a decade. In all her work, Alice champions design’s potential as a social, political and ecological tool. Born in Manchester and based in London, she is a founding member of the Writers for Liberty campaign for human rights and of the advisory boards of DemocracyNext and the OECD’s Future of Democracy Network. Alice and Paola are co-founders of Design Emergency, a research platform and podcast that investigates design’s role in forging a fairer future.


Picture credits: Tom Stuart-Smith by James Runcie/ Alice Rawsthorn by Michael Leckie

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