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Modern Architecture In England

( Originally Published 1921 )


Modern architecture covers the period included in the reigns of William IV (A.D. 1830-37), Victoria (A.D. 1837-1901), Edward VII (A.D. 1901-10), and of our present King, George V.

The wonderful nineteenth century surpassed all its predecessors in the variety of its discoveries and in the extent of their application to the needs of daily life. The whole period down to the present day teems with inventions which have changed social habits ; so that, in order to appreciate the position of architecture as an integral part of national life, we must take stock of some of the most startling of the great controlling agencies which then began to operate. Science, which had long been merely the basis of speculative research for the few, now became the basis of practical life for the many, as it passed out of the study and laboratory into the workshop and factory. Knowledge was no longer allowed to run to waste, but was pressed into the service of humanity. A signal instance of this is found in the invention of photography, by which works of art of all ages and countries could be made familiar to the public. Steam became the motive power for locomotion on sea and land; and made sailing vessels and stage coaches obsolete. Coal was utilised to give gas for light, instead of the old lamp and candle. Electricity was laid under tribute for carrying messages, lighting buildings, and for propelling vehicles. Telegraph, telephone and phonograph, the gramophone and wireless telegraphy all indicate unprecedented progress along the lines of applied science ; while later the invention of aeroplanes and airships enables men to travel more rapidly through the air than is possible by land or sea. The invention of X-rays and the employment of radium have enlarged the possibilities of medical science, and the invention of the submarine has added new. methods of naval warfare. These are only some of the astonishing developments of this wonderful period which are mirrored in our complex modern architecture.

The architecture of this period, as might be expected, provides as fascinating a study as do any other developments of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, but is, moreover, so near to us in time as to make it difficult to form a detached judgment of its character. We propose, there-fore, to apply a more general treatment to modern architectural developments than has been adopted for the styles of past ages.

In previous periods of architecture we have shown the varying and progressive results which arose under the operation of the geographical, geological, climatic, religious, social, and historical influences, but from the beginning of the nineteenth century the operation of these influences becomes modified. Thus geographical influence has been considerably lessened by the introduction of steam and electricity for transport with the consequent rapid intercommunication between countries, so that national customs and peculiarities become less marked, and the geographical position of a country no longer regulates its architecture to the same extent as formerly. Geological influence has been similarly modified for it is obvious that modern transport makes it possible for bricks to be carried into stone countries and stone into brick countries in a way which was formerly impracticable. Climatic influence must always remain fairly constant, regulating the size of doors and windows, the pitch of roofs, and the use of chimneys. Religious influence, which had, in some countries, already been modified by the introduction of Protestantism at the Reformation, now in these latter days passed through yet another phase, especially in England, by the breaking off from the Established ,Church of various sects, and the religious influence, thus dissipated into a variety of sectarian channels, produced multitudes of places of worship, in addition to the old English parish churches, in the towns and villages throughout the country, In the twentieth century, too, people are still, like the Athenians of old, seeking for some new thing, some new manifestation of world-old truths, and varieties of religious experiences and of religious and philosophical research find their latest expression, in the Old World and in the New, in fine buildings dedicated alike to Christianity and Science. The social influence has been responsible for an enormous number of buildings for the various requirements of our diverse social life, so that modern architecture has that complicated character which makes it often so difficult of classification ; but it is safe to say that architecture does express, now even more than ever, the civilisation of the times, as it did in all past periods, when public life was simple and its activities more homogeneous. The historical influence, although not so apparent as in past ages, acts much more swiftly owing to the rapidity of communication. Apart from other historical events, one of the mightiest forces was the French Revolution (A.D. 1789), with the break-up of tradition, not only in France, but also throughout Europe, and the new spirit of this restless time is seen in new movements in thought and art. The Napoleonic wars temporarily arrested the growth of art ; but after A.D. 1815 a new era of peace opened up facilities for travel, which gave opportunities for the study of past styles, and thus aided various revivals which are specially conspicuous in modern architecture in England, and indicate that love of freedom and of liberty of choice which has always characterised the English race. Whereas in previous centuries architecture had steadily developed on traditional lines, at the beginning of the nineteenth century the foundations of all tradition had been so shaken that even architecture no longer proceeded along the lines of gradual evolution ; tradition ceased to maintain its former power and eclecticism had full play in design. Architects reverted to Classic or to Mediaeval art, and for a time there raged what is known as the " Battle of the Styles," in which the most conspicuous of the opposing camps were ranged under the standards of the " Greek Revival " and the Gothic Revival."

The " Greek Revival " had been foreshadowed as early as A.D. 1750, when for a time Greek superseded Latin Classics in the estimation of men of culture, and Greek temple-architecture held sway in Europe till the middle of the nineteenth century. This love for antiquity was reflected in the publication (A.D. 175357) of books on Palmyra and Baalbek by Robert Wood and the " Palace of Diocletian at Spalatro by Robert Adam ; while the Greek Revival is mirrored in the publication of the " Antiquities of Athens " by Stuart and Revett (A.D. 1762), and in the works of the Dilettanti Society (A.D. 1769). The treatise on the Erechtheion, Athens, by Inwood (A.D. 1831), the publication of the " Greek Temples of AEgina and Bassae " and other writings of Professor C. R. Cockerell (A.D. 17881863), and the monograph on the Parthenon by F. C. Penrose (A.D. 1860) all gave a further impetus to the Greek Revival, which had also been greatly stimulated by the arrival in London (A.D. 1801) of the famous Greek sculptures from the Parthenon, known as the " Elgin Marbles."

The " Gothic Revival " proceeded almost pari passu with the Greek and was much influenced by the literature of the day, and indeed attention had already been drawn to the beauties of Mediaeval architecture when Horace Walpole erected Strawberry Hill (A.D. 175378) in the pseudo-Gothic style and James Wyatt, R.A. (A.D. 1746-1813) designed Fonthill Abbey (A.D. 179699) and Ashridge Park (A.D. 180613) on the lines of a monastic building adapted for domestic use. From A.D. 1815 onwards, various writers, including Sir Walter Scott, Goethe, and Victor Hugo, made Mediaevalism fashionable in literature and this Romantic School aided a similar movement in architecture. This revival was very much influenced by art lovers and architects who wrote analytical and descriptive works on the Mediaeval period. Amongst these may be mentioned "Gothick Architecture Improved " (A.D. 1742) by Batty Langley ; " An Attempt to Discriminate the Gothic Styles " (A.D. 1819) by Thomas Rickman ; " The Cathedrals of England (A.D. 181419) " by Storer ; " The Architectural Antiquities of Great Britain " (A.D. 180726) by John Britton ; " The Cathedral Antiquities of Great Britain " (A.D. 181436) by John Britton ; " Specimens of Gothic Architecture " (A.D. 1821) by Augustus Pugin ; Examples of Gothic Architecture " (A.D. 1831) by Augustus Pugin (A.D. 17621832) and his son, A. Welby Pugin (A.D. 1812-52), who also published " The True Principles of Gothic Architecture." " Gothic Ornaments " (A.D. 1848) and " Details of Gothic Architecture " (A.D. 1856) by J. K. Coiling ; " The Churches of the Middle Ages " and " An Analysis of Gothick Architecture " (A.D. 1849) by Brandon. Other writers were Edmund Sharpe (A.D. 180977), author of " Architectural Parallels " and also of a system of nomenclature according to window tracery for the periods of English Gothic Architecture ; Owen Jones (A.D. 180974) with his " Grammar of Ornament " and James Fergusson (A.D. 180886), the first to publish a comprehensive " History of Architecture." Ruskin's " Seven Lamps of Architecture " (A.D. 1849) and " Stones of Venice " (A.D. 1851) also rekindled the love for Mediaeval art and drew popular attention to the ruling principles of Gothic architecture, which were then applied in the building and restoration of churches.

The Great Exhibition of A.D. 1851 served to give publicity and popularity to the various arts and crafts, particularly of the Mediaeval period, and encouraged the study of the writings of Paley, Wilde, Coney, Cotman, Whewell, Willis, Edmund Sharpe, Parker, Petit, and Beresford Hope. All this resulted in a better understanding of Mediaeval art and led to the establishment of the South Kensington (now " Victoria and Albert ") Museum, where specimens of art and architecture of the past were collected for reference and study. Meanwhile the expansion of social needs gave rise to an increasing variety of public buildings, and the so-called " Battle of the Styles " eventually resulted in a generally accepted compromise, under which churches were designed in the Gothic style, owing to clerical influence ; while, after the building of the Law Courts, London (A.D. 1874 82), the Renaissance style was retained as more suitable for public buildings.

In the eighteenth century the greater and older established schools, such as Eton, Winchester, and Westminster, had attracted students away from the grammar schools, some of which were for a time reduced to the status of elementary schools. In the nineteenth century many important public schools were founded, such as the Colleges of Cheltenham (A.D. 1841), Clifton (A.D. 1862), Haileybury (A.D. 1862), Lancing (A.D. 1848), 'Marl-borough (A.D. 1843), Malvern (A.D. 1863), Radley (A.D. 1847), Rossall (A.D.1844), and Wellington (A.D. 1859).

Education was much affected by the Public Schools Commission (A.D. 1863) and the School Enquiry Reports (A.D. 1868), which opened a better era for general education and started well-governed schools, free from religious tests. In our own day educational institutions, like others of public interest, have passed under a democratic change. Elementary education, which was for too long a thing of chance, became a national care. Board Schools, rendered inevitable since A.D. 1839 by the national system of elementary education, and now Council Schools, supply a free ladder from elementary schools, through secondary and continuation schools to the Colleges of the Universities, where the new ideals are still served by the old buildings.

Many novel types of buildings now sprang up, such as museums provided by generous benefactors, public libraries, due to the Public Library Acts, and town halls after the Municipal Corporation Act, A.D. 1835. Besides these, there are markets, hospitals, swimming baths, drill halls, technical colleges, art galleries, cinema theatres, factories, aerodromes, and benevolent institutions, which are all the outcome of the complex social and industrial requirements of a rapidly increasing population. Domestic architecture, too, now advanced with rapid strides, and many houses were erected in the revived Queen Anne and Georgian styles or in a domestic type of Tudor Gothic with casement windows ; while old Jacobean architecture was successfully adapted for many a modern country mansion. As regards present-day developments the Town Planning Act of A.D. 1909 has already produced striking results in the laying out of " garden cities " and in the erection of houses which, if not always artistic, are at least sanitary and convenient, and along such lines will the architecture of the future be applied to the service of the people.

The buildings given below, which are in no sense exhaustive, are divided into the Classic School (including Greek, Roman, and Renaissance) and the Gothic School, and are classified under the architects' names, because architectural style still continued, as in the Renaissance period, to be the product of individual fancy rather than of national effort.

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