English in Action: The English-Speaking Union

Evelyn Wrench Speaker Program

Robert Hulse

Evelyn Wrench Speaker Program 2015-2016

Director, London's Brunel Museum

Isambard Kingdom Brunel: A Victorian Frank Lloyd Wright

Americans need little introduction to their favorite architect, but they may not know Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the Englishman who changed the world. His first project, the oldest tunnel in the London subway, changed the shape of our cities. His last project, the Great Eastern steamship, changed the pattern of world trade. Everything Brunel did, by land or by sea, he did with flare and showmanship worthy of Frank Lloyd Wright. Both worked beyond the parameters of established practice. Like Frank Lloyd Wright, Brunel was flamboyant as well as prolific. Like him, he was stylish, cutting a figure as a man of fashion, a collector and patron of the arts.

In his lecture, Robert Hulse will introduce us to this extraordinary Victorian Englishman and discuss the remarkable similarities he shares with the 20th-century American architect, both of whom challenged the way we think about buildings and cities.Isambard Kingdom Brunel is Britain's most famous engineer. He built the biggest ship in the world three times. He built the fastest railway in the world, a hundred bridges, the first river tunnel, and said 'I wish to be the first engineer and an example to all future ones'. Frank Lloyd Wright designed more than a thousand structures, many of them in Chicago, and many of them award-winning. He introduced a new school of architecture, and when asked his profession, said 'I am the World's Greatest Living Architect'.

Robert Hulse, MA, is Director of London's Brunel Museum, housed in Brunel's original Thames Tunnel engine house and winner of The Queen's Award in 2010. He is co-author of The Brunels' Tunnel, with a foreword by Michael Palin. Mr. Hulse has worked in education and museums for 20 years. He has taught at London University and City University; lectured at Chiba University, Tokyo, the Royal Institution of Great Britain and Tel Aviv University. He worked with the Greater London Authority to organize the first public walks through the Thames Tunnel in 145 years. He is now working with Brunel Museum Trustees on an exciting new project to build a visitor center in Brunel's Grand Entrance Hall. The museum was recently awarded the Freedom of the Ancient Metropolitan Borough of Bermondsey, thus bestowing on Robert twin rare privileges: he is now permitted access to any of the river-steps of the Thames… and may drive sheep across London Bridge.