A Biography of an Architect and a Study of the Roots of American Architecture

By Faktorovich, Anna | Pennsylvania Literary Journal, Spring 2018 | Go to article overview

A Biography of an Architect and a Study of the Roots of American Architecture


Faktorovich, Anna, Pennsylvania Literary Journal


A Biography of an Architect and a Study of the Roots of American Architecture Robert Russell. William Strickland and the Creation of an American Architecture. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2017. ISBN: 9781-62190-346-8. 344pp.

This is a biography of William Strickland (1788-1854), one of the "most notable architects in U.S. history." He began his career in Philadelphia and was very productive, but most of his buildings have not survived through the present, so there has been relatively little scholarship into his life and work; this is an attempt to rectify this lack. One of Strickland's first recognized projects was the Second Bank of the United States in Philadelphia. Another project explored here is the Tennessee State Capitol Building in Nashville. Despite the buildings that have been lost, the hundred illustrations of Strickland's buildings that survive are plenty to show this notable architect's style and vision. The author of this book is Robert Russell, a retired architectural historian, who has written other books on southern architecture. The biography is naturally organized chronologically, starting with how Strickland first became an architect. Then the chapters are divided into his main projects and locations for his work. There is also a chapter on his retreat to Europe after the peak of his fame. After he returned, he worked in Tennessee and on monuments and memorials, and attempted engineering in his final chapter. This book has extremely wide margins to fit elongated photographs of some of Strickland's buildings. Since the book is over 300 pages, and many of the pictures fit in half of a page or less, the three-inch margins look excessive, but also give the book an architectural negative-space feel.

The book opens with what is unknown about Strickland, which is clearly a lot: "He was probably born on a farm in Navesink, Monmouth County, New Jersey, in 1788. …

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