The architecture of Joseph Michael Gandy (1771–1843) and Sir John Soane (1753–1837): An exploration into the Masonic and occult imagination of the late Enlightenment

Terrance Gerard Galvin, University of Pennsylvania


In examining select works of English architects Joseph Michael Gandy and Sir John Soane, this dissertation is intended to bring to light several important parallels between architectural theory and freemasonry during the late Enlightenment. Both architects developed architectural theories regarding the universal origins of architecture in an attempt to establish order as well as transcend the emerging historicism of the early nineteenth century. There are strong parallels between Soane's use of architectural narrative and his discussion of architectural ‘model’ in relation to Gandy's understanding of ‘trans-historical’ architecture. The primary textual sources discussed in this thesis include Soane's Lectures on Architecture, delivered at the Royal Academy from 1809 to 1836, and Gandy's unpublished treatise entitled the Art, Philosophy, and Science of Architecture, circa 1826. Soane's Museum at Lincoln's Inn Fields provides a three dimensional encyclopedia that is an embodiment of architectural vision and memory. I propose Soane's Museum as parallel to Gandy's architectural watercolor drawings, particularly his final series executed for “Comparative Architecture” from 1836 to 1838. While these works remain distinct, they are complementary examples of visual representation which rely upon architectural narrative through emblem and symbol. Another correspondence between Soane and Gandy involves Soane's role as a Masonic architect and Gandy's role as an occult visionary. As the result of a planned reconciliation between two groups in freemasonry—the ‘Antients’ and the Moderns—Soane became the Grand Superintendent of Works for the United Grand Lodge of England in 1813. This led to Soane and Gandy's shared visions for London's Freemasons' Hall, designed and built between 1813–30 (and subsequently demolished in 1863). I argue that this is the architectural project through which Soane and Gandy's common interest in universal symbolism was made manifest, as evidenced by the design and presentation drawings held at the Soane Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum. In each of these collaborative works of architecture, Soane and Gandy displayed ‘Masonic and occult imagination.’

Subject Area

Architecture|European history

Recommended Citation

Galvin, Terrance Gerard, "The architecture of Joseph Michael Gandy (1771–1843) and Sir John Soane (1753–1837): An exploration into the Masonic and occult imagination of the late Enlightenment" (2003). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3087403.