Wren and His Place in European Architecture

Wren and His Place in European Architecture

Wren and His Place in European Architecture

Wren and His Place in European Architecture

Excerpt

The idea of this study of Wren's architecture was first conceived in 1948 when, after a stay of two years in England as a British Council Scholar, I was, on my return to Vienna, struck by the difference, with all its implications, between Continental and English Baroque. At that time the most recent study of Wren was Mr. Geoffrey Webb's book, published in 1937. A new analysis and summing up of all the evidence accumulated in the volumes of the Wren Society seemed, therefore, timely and it appeared useful to clarify the relation between Wren and Continental architecture.

It was particularly with this aspect in mind that my study was undertaken, for I was aware that a Continental student can hardly hope to make new discoveries in the source material, a field in which he would find it difficult to compete with his English colleagues. While my research was still in progress several new books on Wren appeared which made it unnecessary to treat of certain aspects which I had originally intended to discuss. Thus biographical and similar details have been reduced to the minimum necessary for the clear outlining of Wren's career. Some space, however, has had to be given to Wren's philosophy and theory since they largely conditioned his reactions to Continental architecture. In this context his belief in an absolute ideal of 'natural or geometrical beauty' would seem especially relevant if we consider that in a number of cases the main lines of his designs coincide with simple geometrical figures. I do not wish, however, to claim any undue significance for these coincidences; it would be as erroneous, in my opinion, to overrate their importance as completely to deny their existence.

It is my hope that this book may contribute to a better understanding of Wren's work, by showing that it was neither an isolated, national phenomenon, nor a purely derivative offshoot of Continental architecture, but, like most English architecture, an original achievement of considerable importance which, nevertheless, cannot be taken out of its greater European context.

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