ADAM, Robert
(b. 1728, Kirkcaldy, d. 1792, London)

Biography

Scottish architect and designer. Part of a British family of architects active 17th-18th centuries, he is the son of a Scottish architect, William Adam Sr. (1689-1748). He is considered the most important architect of the late eighteenth century in England. Together with his brother James (1730-1794), he transformed Palladian Neoclassicism in England into the airy, light, elegant style that bears their name (Adam style). His major architectural works include public buildings (especially in London), and his designs were used for the interiors of such country mansions as Syon House in Middlesex (now in Hounslow, London).

He spent a fairly long period in Rome between 1754-58 where he came to know the famous architectural theoretician and engraver Giovanni Battista Piranesi and the French draftsman Charles-Louis Clérisseau.

In 1755 Robert Adam began a long association with Charles-Louis Clérisseau, first as his student later as his employer. Clérisseau assisted Adam in his study of ancient architectural and decorative forms and their adaptation to a new architectural style. Adam also led an expedition to Dalmatia in order to record the precise measurements of Diocletian's palace at Spalato (now Split). The results of this were published in 1764 under the title The Ruins of Spalato. He settled in London at the end of the 1750s.

After his return to England, Adam was mainly involved in the decoration of existing interiors. Syon House, Middlesex gives some idea of the way in which he was able to interpret and enhance motifs from a wide variety of classical sources.