Reaction paper to A. E. Richardson's "Georgian Architecture"


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Reaction paper to A. E. Richardson's "Georgian Architecture"
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Mixed Material
Fraga, Robert
College of Architecure, University of Florida
Place of Publication:
Gainesville, FL
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University of Florida
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University of Florida
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All rights reserved by the source institution.
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Full Text

AE 675

Robert Fraga

Reaction Paper to A. E. Richardson's

Georgian Architecture


The following critical evaluation of the book Georgian

Architecture by A. E. Richardson consists of two parts.

The first part of this essay will familiarize the reader

with the principal concepts proposed by the author in his


The second part of this essay will consist of a critical

evaluation of the author's thesis, and the continuity and

clarity of the author's thoughts as they are expressed in

the book,



In his book Georgian Architecture, author A, E, Richard-

son explores the rise of the Georgian Style of architecture,

the leading architects of this period and the various expres-

sions of Georgian Architecture that occurred as a result of


Mr. Richardson has divided his book into two parts. The

first part dealing with the earlier expressions of Georgian

Architecture and the reasons for this mode of expression

(1714 to 1760). The second part of this book, deals with the

continuing development of the Georgian Style in England as

well as regional expressions of the Georgian Style (1760 to

1830). In this section of the book, the author also deals

with individual architects of importance to this period.

In the first section of the book, Mr. Richardson talks

about the development of the Georgian Style as the result of

social change that occurred approximately at the time of

King George the First, Academicism lead to an architecture

based on classical concepts. Symmetry, scale and proportions

gained new importance in the design of buildings.

Mr. Richardson associates the development of the Georgian

style with the rise of a new social class composed of crafts-

men and merchants. This new social class was educated as to

the ways of the academic design by means of popular booklets

which illustrated the principal elements of the new style.

As a result of the accessibility of information, almost

everyone associated with the building trades; journeymen,

carpenters and bricklayers, became familiar with the design

elements of the new style as well as with the detailing that

became a prototype for this period. Thus, as Mr. Richardson

states in his book, "It now become usual for a man of ordinary

talents to make a name as a designer of buildings; for archi-

tecture as an art now appealed to a wider circle of patrons.

In conclusion to the first section of his book, Mr.

Richardson describes the influences of the leading architects

of the period. Lord Burlington, James Gibbs and William Kent

are among the architects mentioned as being important to the

early development of the Georgian Style.

In the second section of his book, which covers the period

from 1760 to 1830 Mr. Richardson dwells on the social and

historical aspect that influenced the architecture of the

time; the segregation of the working classes into new groups,

the secession of the American colonies from the mother country

and the long struggle with France for world power are said to

have influenced the architecture of the time and contributed

to the maturing of the Georgian Style. According to Richardson,

"further understanding of antiquity due to studies conducted

on Italy and Greece helped to refine the detailing and the over-

all design during this period. Also, craftsmanship reached

its zenith at this time and consequently the quality of the

work improved tremendously.

Mr. Richardson also speaks of a newfound sense of patriot-

ism, "... the development of a civic sense," which inspired

the British to build in a Grand Style, specially in public

and official buildings. Richardson states that during this

period, British classical architecture came into its own

by adopting many elements of the vernacular into the new

style, thus, giving a true British character to the archi-

tecture of the time.

In the second section of his book Richardson also deals

with the mode of expression of Georgian Style in certain

regions of Britain such as Dublin where the Georgian Style

was influenced by elements of the Baroque and in Edinburgh

where the Georgian Style developed with a Scottish vernacular

flavor, Also in this section, the author writes bibliographic

sketches of the main architects of the period; Sir William

Chambers, Robert Mylne, Sir John Soane, the Wyatts brothers

and John Nash.

In conclusion to his book, Mr. Richardson summarizes all

the facts previously mentioned in his text and proclaims the

Georgian style as a "...classic spirit which for more than

two centuries shone like a beacon to guide the architecture

of England." Also, the author concludes that the spirit of

the Georgian style has left its imprint in the architectural

fabric of England and he encourages present day architects

to recapture the spirit of the Georgian Style.



I feel that the book Georgian Style has many shortcomings,

the first one being the way in which the book has been

structured. I found it difficult to understand why the

author chose to divide his book into two sections. I would

have rather had the author deal with the topic of Georgian

architecture as a whole in a continuous fashion, specially

since it appears that there is no real apparent historical

reason to have such a division, but rather such a division

resulted from an arbitrary decision of the author.

I agree with the author's theory that sociological and

political events contributed to shape the architecture of

the time; this seems to have been the case for much of the

architecture of the world, however, I regret that the

author did not pursue this trend of thought further and ex-

plained exactly how the social and political influences were

expressed in terms of an architectural vocabulary, that is to

say, what were the physical expressions that resulted from

the socio-economic influences. Instead, the author makes

statements such as, "the use of England to Imperial dignity;

the growth of the democratic spirit under aristocratic influ-

ences...the incipient Industrial Revolution. Such are the

factors which really determined the main aspects of the

style familiarly known as Georgian" and without further quali-

fications the author moves on to other topics. This lack of

depth in the criticism of the author really hinders the total

understanding of the text since it is impossible to associate

historical events with specific architectural development.

A similar problem arises when the author makes reference

to the leading architects of the period and their influences

upon other architects of the age, for example, "The peculiar

distinction of Chambers was his scholarship which outclassed

that of Tailor and Paine, and was isolated from the focile

accomplishments of Robert Adams," A statement such as this

is only understandable if the reader is familiar with the

work of the architects in question. Again, the author fails

to make further qualifications to his statements,

From a historical point of view, I feel that the author

has not given enough recognition to the influences that the

architecture of the Italian Renaissance had upon the Georgian

Style of architecture. The author in describing the qualities

of the Georgian Style refers to symmetry, proportions and

scale as though these concepts were native to the style.

Rather than recognize the foreign influences to the Georgian

Style, the author states, "By 1750, the classic tradition had

developed a character which was unmistakably English...,"

and, "the almost Athenian grace of the new style appealed,

both by its novelty and its charm, to a wide circle. In due

course it became fashionable; finally it was standardized and

formed the vernacular for all kinds of buildings." The fact

is that if the Georgian Style developed an "unmistakably

English" quality it was due to the many adaptations that made

this style unique to England, however, Renaissance, Gothic and

Baroque influences are also unmistakably part of this style

of architecture.

The author's inability to convey his criticism using a

conventional architectural vocabulary, presented some problem

to the reader. Instead of dealing with an architectural termin-

ology that makes reference to space, scale and structure, the

author has dealt with terms such as; "fashionable" and "taste-

ful" when referring to architectural elements. Such terms,

convey a limited amount of information and they enable the

reader to make any interpretation of his own.

In conclusion, I would like to state that the book

Georgian Style by A. E. Richardson, is a one man interpretation

of the Georgian Style. I feel that this is not a good reference

book since it lacks the kind of information that every reference

book needs to be a valuable tool. However, this is a compli-

mentary book to be read along with other books dealing with the

same topic so as to obtain a variety of opinions and thus a

broader view on the architecture of the Georgian Style.