The legendary Sir John Soane’s Museum, at Number 13 Lincoln’s Inn Fields in London, has been undergoing an intensive expansion and restoration program that is expected to be completed in 2013. With the help of public and private funds, already one significant piece has been has been finished: In early 2008, the museum opened a restored and remodeled structure at Number 14, which Soane designed but never used — as he did Number 12, his first residence, and the more lavish Number 13. In the latter, he fully developed his idiosyncratic Romantic-Classical living and working quarters and a museum, whose encrusted, skylighted galleries would run through the backyards of the three buildings. (Disclosure: This writer serves on the voluntary board of the New York–based Sir John Soane’s Museum Foundation.)
Between 1792 and 1826 Soane purchased three properties on Lincoln’s Inn Fields, demolishing their structures and rebuilding town houses. Although the facades of Numbers 12, 13, and 14 form a triptych, with Number 13 as the prominent centerpiece, Soane bought Number 14 in 1823 to make over for rental income. It was ultimately sold in 1873. Since Soane did not intend to live in it, the interior was neither as lavish nor as intricate as Numbers 12 and 13; indeed, he never furnished it. But his plaster decoration and fitted joinery remained intact over the years. In 1996, with the help of lottery funds, the museum acquired Number 14 . Now it is home to a much-needed education center (basement), seminar room (ground level), research library (first floor), and the Robert Adam Study Centre (second level), with offices on the two floors above.