In celebration of St George’s Day we have listed the most well known periods of Architecture in English History.
From medieval to post-modernism, England certainly has a rich architectural history with a great number of notable buildings. While the country has seen many styles of architecture, we pinpoint some of the most influential.
Following the decline of the Roman Empire, Europe fell into cultural and economic decline. As such, structures were built to be “fit for purpose” more than “fit for culture”. They had, religious, civil and military functions and this period incorporates pre-Romanesque, Romanesque, and Gothic.
The White Tower, Tower of London. Image from Pexels
The White Tower, which sits at the heart of the Tower of London is a perfect example of 11th Century Medieval Architecture and was built to strike fear in Londoners and invaders. Inside the White Tower is a unique 11th-century Romanesque Chapel of St John the Evangelist.
Tudor Architecture marks the final phase of medieval architecture between 1485-1558. Its distinctive style often saw houses designed with “zebra stripes”. The Tudor style was a mix of Renaissance with gothic and was often referred to as Perpendicular Gothic due to its vertical lines.
Tudor House Southampton. Image by Lupusaesticus from Wikipedia Commons
Tudor House in Southampton is a beautiful 15th Century house built in the old town and is the perfect example of Tudor Architecture. It is now a museum housing historical artefacts with access to the decorative garden and Norman King John’s Palace at the rear.
According to the English Heritage: “The architectural profession is largely a Victorian creation. In the 18th century it was common for architects to act as developers and surveyors too, but by the 1820s such roles were being devolved, leaving architects free to experiment with a profusion of styles.”(1)
This period also saw a lot of revival architecture such as Gothic revival and the Arts and Crafts movement mixing Middle Age and traditional crafts with 19th century living.
Westminster Palace. Image from Pixabay
The iconic re-built Palace of Westminster completed in 1870 is a prime example of Victorian Neo-Gothic Architecture. The Perpendicular Gothic Revival property was designed by Sir Charles Barry and Augustus Pugin, is owned by the crown and is an UNESCO World Heritage site.
The post-war era saw the introduction of international architecture from Europe dubbed “Modernism”. This concrete filled, flat surface style came late to Britain and was primarily introduced by foreign architects such as Georgian Berthold Lubetkin.
The minimalist approach that modernism provided focused on the functional use of the building. “The style became characterised by an emphasis on volume, asymmetrical compositions, and minimal ornamentation.”(2)
Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral. Image by Superchilum from Wikipedia Commons
Built in 1967 the Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral Frederick Gibberd and Partners is a modernist inspired church. Its “crown” is representative of Christ the King and also serves environmental factors.
Between 1975-1990 England saw a new wave of architectural style; Postmodernist Architecture. Influenced by more traditional designs, Postmodernism merges with its urban surroundings and use of traditional materials such as brick. Introduced by Architect Denise Scott Brown and Robert Venturi in their book “Learning from Las Vegas” the movement revolted against the austerity and formalities of the modernist period to add variety and an emphasis on the Façade.
Judge Business School, Cambridge. Image from Historic England
Between 1993-5 John Outram and Partner remodelled the 19th Century Judge Business School in Cambridge. With its postmodern style Historic England said: the “new buildings at the rear are linked by a spectacular atrium with a decorated ceiling and snaking staircases.”(3).
Contemporary architecture now takes on ideas from many different eras from ambitious to quirky and understated. Glass-based structures are a popular choice with buildings such as the “Gherkin”.
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1. English Heritage, ‘Architecture’, https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/learn/story-of-england/victorian/architecture/, [Accessed 23/04/2019]
2. RIBA, ‘Modernism’ https://www.architecture.com/explore-architecture/modernism [Accessed 23/04/2019]
3.Historic England, ‘Post-Modern
Architecture’ https://historicengland.org.uk/images-books/publications/iha-post-modern-architecture/heag186-post-modern-architecture-iha/, December 2017