Architectural Studies

The Gothic Revival

The nineteenth century overflowed with historicist architecture, that is, buildings consciously seeking to adopt the stylistic appearances of bygone eras. This historicism was strengthened through several intersecting cultural forces. The professionalization and emergence of methodological standards in academic fields such as history and archaeology brought greater breadth and precision to the shared knowledge of past architecture. At the same time, architecture itself became an academic discipline, with formalized courses of study, which tended to emphasize, along with structural engineering, detailed familiarity with measured drawings of past landmarks down to the level of ornamental details. Along with these developments, the emergence of iron structural systems enabled a process of architectural design whereby a skeletal iron armature could be “dressed” within a historical “costume.”

One hallmark of nineteenth-century architecture in Europe was fads for different period revival styles. Such styles might even be combined within a single structure, yielding what we term eclectic architecture. Popular revival styles ranged from the Greek Revival and Egyptian Revival to the Assyrian Revival and Romanesque Revival. (This last being far more popular in the United States—think of Scoville and Goodsell on the Carleton campus; both are Romanesque Revival.)  But far and away the most widespread of these revival styles was the Gothic Revival.


Walpole & Strawberry Hill House


Strawberry Hill (Strawberry Hill House, 2011, 11 mins.):



Augustus W. N. Pugin is a seminal figure in the history of the Gothic Revival. We will be reading his early architectural manifesto, Contrasts.

N.B. I said “little is known” about Pugin’s father, Auguste Pugin, but I meant to say that little is known about him prior to his emigration to London around 1798.



The Oxford Movement

The Oxford Movement, along with its Cambridge counterpart, the Camden Society, sought to revitalize the Anglican Church—and specifically the High Church—in the face of growing secularism and liberalism. Architecture proved a key concern for both organizations, which both sponsored Gothic Revival church construction. William Butterfield, the leading architect associated with the Oxford Movement, pioneered the use of brick in Gothic Revival designs. An inexpensive material, brick allowed for an “honest” expression of structural principles while also making possible interesting pattern work through the use of different brick bonds and arrangements of differently colored bricks.

Keble College, Oxford (University of Oxford, 2013, 5 mins.):


All Saints, Margaret Street (Smarthistory, 2012, 8 mins.):

st. Pancras & The midland Grand

The utilization of the Gothic Revival extended far beyond religious structures associated with High-Church Anglicanism and the Catholic Church. The revived Gothic style proved widely popular in domestic and commercial buildings of all sorts. An excellent example of the Victorian appreciation for the Gothic is the combined development of St. Pancras Station and the Midland Grand Hotel.

St. Pancras Station (Architectures, 25 mins.):


Gothic Revival Quiz (coming soon)


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