posted on 18/05/23
In this, Wren’s anniversary year, Simon Thurley brings together a lifetime of scholarship to reveal the individual behind the famous buildings. What was the secret of his success with four successive monarchs? How did he manage to keep a dozen projects going at a time? Who were the men who laboured in the engine-room of his office? What was that office like and how did he run it? These and other questions will be addressed in this behind-the-scenes exploration of the life of Sir Christopher, which will show us his works in a new and surprising light.
They take place every Monday from 2–16 October 23 at 4.30pm (GMT +1) and, including Q&A, will probably last an hour. They are available for viewing for eight weeks after the last episode is streamed (11th December 2023).
When in 1669 Wren was appointed royal architect there were half a dozen more experienced than he in architecture. His ability to leapfrog the competition owed much to his talent, but it was also politics, connections and personal charm that won him the job. What was it in the young Wren’s background that propelled him to the top and how did this Oxford don adapt himself to the cut and thrust of one of the biggest jobs at court?
Designing a building in the 17th century was a three-way process, a creative relationship between designer, craftsman and patron. Wren’s genius lay in his management of his patrons, royal and political; he was the great survivor of late 17th-century politics, a charmer and sometimes a chancer. This second talk looks at Wren at court and at Westminster, and the ups and downs of managing powerful patrons while still producing great buildings.
By the 1690s Wren had a large well-staffed office in Whitehall working on at least three gigantic royal projects. He was also fully engaged on St Paul’s Cathedral, the largest single building of his career and designing for universities, private clients and church wardens. Such a workload could never be managed alone, nor was it. This last lecture looks at the way Wren designed buildings, supervised their construction and worked with a brilliant team of assistants.
Historian, archaeologist and heritage champion. He was appointed Chair of the National Heritage Lottery Fund in 2021 and is Chair of the House of Commons Conservation Committee. He is an advisor to the government boards created to oversee the restoration and renewal of the Palace of Westminster and is closely engaged with the development of the programme as a non-executive director of one of these boards, the Delivery Authority. He was Chief Executive of English Heritage between 2002 and 2015, and previously headed Historic Royal Palaces and the Museum of London. A specialist on English architecture, Simon has written over a dozen books including Men from the Ministry: How Britain Saved its Heritage, Houses of Power, the Places that Shaped the Tudor World and its sequel, Palaces of Revolution: Life, Death and Art at the Stuart Court.
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