NARRATOR: In this room are works by two rival architects, who worked in the Neo-classical style. Robert Adam, represented by the panelling next to you, was seen as a breath of fresh air in the late 18th century, while William Chambers, who designed the large chimney-piece nearby, was more traditional in style. Both were studying in Rome in 1755. Adam's letters to his brother display the professional rivalry driving the young Scottish designer:
ADAM: Chambers who has been here six years is superior to me at present … but damn my blood but I will have fair trial of it and expect to do as much in six months as he has done in as many years.
NARRATOR: Eager to build patronage, Adam needed to win over the nobility. Here he felt Chambers was at an advantage:
ADAM: He despises others as much as he admires his own talents which he shows with a slow and dignified air, conveying an idea of great wisdom which … I find sways much with every Englishman… . Time alone can determine whether I am meet to cope with such a rival…
NARRATOR: Chambers took a more lofty view of the Adam brothers' growing popularity, especially after they published their designs in 1773:
CHAMBERS: They have lately published a book of their ornaments… in which they boast of having first brought the true Style of Decoration in England and that all the Architects of the present day are only servile copiers of their excellence. I do not agree with them in the first of these propositions and can produce many proofs against the last.
NARRATOR: Let us leave the last word to someone who knew both men, the engineer Thomas Telford.
TELFORD: I became known to Sir William Chambers and Mr. Robert Adam, the former haughty and reserved, the latter affable and communicative; and a similar distinction of character pervaded their works, Sir William's being stiff and formal, those of Mr. Adam playful and gay… ..
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