Oxford: An Architectural Guide

Oxford: An Architectural Guide

Oxford: An Architectural Guide

Oxford: An Architectural Guide

Synopsis

Geoffrey Tyack chronicles the architectural development of Oxford and its university buildings from the 11th century to the present in this study that emphasises what is visible. The book features suggested walks that follow the text's descriptions.

Excerpt

Few cities contain more magnificent buildings within a relatively small area than Oxford. More than eight centuries of lavish architectural patronage, combined with the extraordinary institutional continuity and persisting vitality of one of the oldest universities in the world, have ensured that a moderately sized English provincial town has been adorned with and, in the eyes of many, personified by buildings worthy of a capital city. Quite apart from the University's immense contributions to human knowledge, Oxford is one of the great cities of the world simply because of its architecture.

My reason for writing this book is a simple one: the want of an. accessible and up-to-date account of the architectural history of Oxford in a single volume. This is not to say that Oxford has lacked architectural historians; far from it. Most of the colleges, and many of the University's other buildings, have been exhaustively chronicled. The older buildings of the city, both the extant and the lost ones, have also received devoted attention from historians and archaeologists. What has been missing is a single synoptic account of how the Oxford of today has come to be what it is, an account able to be used not only by residents but also by the growing number of visitors who seek a greater understanding of what they see. I have tried to steer a path between excessive subjectivity and a Gradgrindish concern for the accumulation of facts for their own sake. I have given greater emphasis to buildings that still exist than to those which have vanished or, for one reason or another, were never built. And I have placed the evolution of Oxford's architecture against the background of the historical development of both the University and its often ignored and neglected older sister -- or Siamese twin? -- the city. This means that there is a greater emphasis on the architecture of the 19th and 20h centuries than will be found in most books on Oxford. It also means, I hope, that users of the book will find signposts to lead them away from well-trodden paths into byways which, so often, reveal something of the inner life of the place.

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