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Overview of Victorian Architecture in London

Info: 1374 words (5 pages) Essay
Published: 3rd Nov 2020 in Architecture

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A lot of tourists and foreigners drop by London annually to experience and appreciate the capital’s remarkable history and culture which characterizes the city. Part of this adventure are the ancient buildings that capture their interests, which in particular, are the various architectural styles, ranging from cathedral style buildings, Baroque Architecture (which was introduced in the 16th century) to modern Post-war architecture (which is known from the 1950s to this present day). However, how much awareness do we have on the effects, from these different architectural styles, on the British community? And its importance to the civic life? In this essay, I will be focusing on two architectural styles, with each in different time period, which are Victorian Architecture and Arts & Craft Movement, and how each are known for its purpose in London, in terms of their feature, importance and changes to the society.

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First of all, I will give a brief history about one of London’s most known architecture movement, called the Victorian Architecture. The Victorian style, known during the reign of Queen Victoria, brought the idea of mass-housing, the reason why there are a lot of Victorian buildings in London. Majority of these Victorian homes were constructed mainly for the bourgeoisie (also known as middle class people), who were experiencing an increase in wealth for the very first time. In addition to that point, they are, however, responsible for providing the accessibility to home with appropriate hygiene for working classes by building houses.

In regards to their architecture, this Victorian movement established some popular styles, including Renaissance (mainly Italian), Queen Anne, Medieval and the most well-known out of these, the Gothic Revival. The first thoughts that come into mind when you think of London, are the iconic buildings, such as, Big Ben, House of Parliament, London Eye and so on. With that in mind, it is noticeable that most popular buildings in London are typically known by its Gothic and cathedral features. Speaking of Gothic and cathedral, these were regarded as the nation’s style. With regards to this, Sir Charles Barry and A.W Pugin designed a building using the Victorian style which was then selected for the new design of the House of Parliament,  which in addition, replaced the old Palace of Westminster, which was destroyed by fire in 1834. More into that, majority of churches in London are built in Gothic cathedral style specifically, which reveals its traditional identity as Christianity. What are the features of Gothic Revival? You may ask. Gothic style brings back the classic architecture which include essential features like columns that are clustered, pointed arches, flying buttress, intricate sculptures and even more. The St Pancras Railway Station and Palace of Westminster are very good examples of Gothic Revival, as they have most of the style characteristics, although there are few other examples that are outside London, which also appear to show great illustration of the style.

As previously stated, Victorian style is a pretty broad movement, therefore Gothic is not the ‘main’ style that represents Victorian in London. Another popular style is Renaissance style. This style was first introduced in the 15th century and was brought back during the Victorian era, precisely around the 1880s. Renaissance, specifically Italian Renaissance, mainly took their inspirations from Greek and Roman architecture, which is why they said to be the revival of the classic, as they took some details featured during the Greek era. In addition, they developed even further by getting inspirations from styles during the Victorian era such as Gothic Revival and Queen Anne. In regards to the Greek era, the architecture was mainly focused on the scale and proportions, which Italian Renaissance is influenced by. Therefore, the main features for Italian Renaissance are having columns, which are commonly Roman type, round arches and domes, the façade which is symmetrical around the vertical axis and lastly flat ceilings. In addition to this, materials are also similar, as they mostly use stones.

Another style that is worth pointing out is Queen Anne style. Towards the end of the Victorian Era, Queen Anne style became a popular style which was around 1880s and 1900s. Although, the name ‘Queen Anne’ was primarily known during early Renaissance style, which was in the late 16th century but made the first appearance in Britain in 1700s. The architecture of this style is often seen as brick structures. Taking the characteristics into consideration, although their structures alter most of the time, some important features makes the style easy to locate. For instance, the buildings are generally not symmetrical with more than one story and often appear to have wrap-around porch. Talking about the exterior, surfaces tend to combine various materials together such as wood and brick. Occasionally, more than one material can be seen to be used right next to each other. They also feature polygonal or round towers with bell shaped roofs which are usually located in the front corners.

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