Architectural Studies

Kenwood House

William Murray, 1st Earl of Mansfield, was an influential Scottish barrister who became the Lord Chief Justice in 1756. Two years earlier he had purchased Kenwood House, a Georgian estate on the northern edge of Hampstead Heath in London. Murray hired his fellow Scotsman, Robert Adam, to redesign the house in Adam’s neoclassical style. Adam worked on the project off and on over 15 years, from 1764 to 1779, and the library in particular is a famous exemplar of Adam’s interior design.

In 2012 the house, which is run by English Heritage, closed to the public for a major conservation project costing about 6 million pounds. In addition to re-roofing the building, repainting the portico to simulate its 18th century appearance, installing an accessibility elevator and other improvements, the visitor experience of the house has been completely overhauled. As the Daily Telegraph reported:

Gone are many ropes and barriers and visitors can sit down (‘if it’s black leather, you can sit on it’) to admire the extraordinary art collection or investigate ephemera tucked into drawers or desks. Every room has a human ‘explainer’ and a set of linen-bound written guides. The Orangery has sprouted children’s activity backpacks and wooden games.

What do you think of the current house? How would you characterize, assess and evaluate its pedagogical mission? Below is the brief video released by English Heritage to accompany the reopening of Kenwood House.

Restored (English Heritage, 3 mins.):


Building on the connection with Kenwood House and its redesign by Robert Adam, below is a short educational video, produced by the National Trust for Scotland and Education Scotland as part of an online educational platform about the Scottish Enlightenment. How effective do you find such historical reenactments? When and why are they successful or ineffective? In what ways do they convey information differently from other forms of presentation? (P.S. Did anyone speak with the costumed Romano-Britons in the Roman Baths at Aquae Sulis?)

Robert Adam (National Trust for Scotland, 7 mins.):


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