Shedding new light on drawings held in the Museum's collections, in this fascinating talk Rory Lamb paints a picture of James Playfair, an architect with a particular vision for Scottish architecture.

The death of James Playfair aged thirty-eight in 1794 brought to an abrupt close what might have been a dazzling architectural career, exemplified in the cutting edge neoclassical design of Playfair's final work, Cairness House in Aberdeenshire. Born near Dundee in 1755, Playfair established himself in London in the mid 1780s under the patronage of the politician Henry Dundas, through whom he developed a client-base largely made up of other Scots. This talk examines James Playfair's career through the evidence of his letters and journal which reveal an architect with a particular vision, namely the desire to "improve" Scottish architecture by aligning it with the standards of metropolitan London. By understanding Playfair's self-conception as a London architect supervising projects in Scotland, the talk aims to begin shedding new light on the nearly 300 of his drawings purchased by Sir John Soane from Playfair's widow in 1794 and now held in the Museum's collections.

On arrival, please come to No.14 Lincoln’s Inn Fields. The door will be staffed from 6:00pm.

About the speaker

Dr Kerry Bristol is a senior lecturer in the School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies at the University of Leeds, where she has taught the history of British and Irish architecture and country house culture since 1999. She is currently researching and writing a book on everyday life in the eighteenth century at Nostell, West Yorkshire, where she is honorary historical advisor to the National Trust.