A Biographical Dictionary of English Architects, 1660-1840

A Biographical Dictionary of English Architects, 1660-1840

A Biographical Dictionary of English Architects, 1660-1840

A Biographical Dictionary of English Architects, 1660-1840

Excerpt

The history of English architecture has been written almost as often as the history of England itself. But in their preoccupation with design and construction few architectural historians have paused to consider how architecture was practised in the past: intent on the analysis of style and of the influences which create it, they have paid little attention to the relationship between architect, builder, and client which makes possible all architectural achievement. Yet the history of this relationship is not only of intrinsic interest: it is essential to the understanding of architecture itself. For architecture is not an esoteric art which can be pursued in isolation, like poetry or painting. Unlike them, it depends upon others both for its opportunity and for its execution, and is therefore the more sensitive to social and economic changes. At various times during the past three hundred years it has been a craft, a trade, an accomplishment, and a profession; and each of these phases has had its appropriate expression in stone or brick, from the mason's architecture of the Cotswolds to the carpenter's Gothic of Batty Langley, from the Palladian convention of the Georgian aristocracy to the Greek revivalism of the scholar-architect. The history of English architecture is, in fact, bound up with its own practice, and the careers of those architects and master workmen who figure in this dictionary would scarcely be intelligible without some idea of the conditions under which they designed and built. It is therefore with the building trades that the first part of this introduction is concerned: the second attempts to trace the rise of the English architectural profession. For it happens that that process coincides very closely with the chronological limits of this book. In 1660 there were designers of buildings and builders of architecture, but there were no architects in the sense in which we use the word today. By 1840 there was an established architectural profession, based on a regular system of pupilage and held together by the newly founded Institute of British Architects. This new profession had come into being through the labours and aspirations of those whose names appear in this volume, and its history--however imperfectly told--may not inappropriately serve to introduce their careers.

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