Georgian architecture

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For the unrelated architecture of the country Georgia, see Architecture of Georgia (country).

Georgian architecture is the name given in most English-speaking countries to the set of architectural styles current between 1720 and 1830. It is eponymous for the first four British monarchs of the House of HanoverGeorge I of Great Britain, George II of Great Britain, George III of the United Kingdom, and George IV of the United Kingdom—who reigned in continuous succession from August 1714 to June 1830. The style was revived in the late 19th century in the United States as Colonial Revival architecture and in the early 20th century in the Great Britain; referred to as Neo-Georgian architecture

History and definition[edit]

Georgian left the English Baroque of Sir Christopher Wren, Sir John Vanbrugh, Thomas Archer, William Talman, and Nicholas Hawksmoor. The architect James Gibbs was a transitional figure, many of his buildings having a hint of Baroque, reflecting the time he spent in Rome in the early 18th century. Major architects to promote the change in direction from baroque were Colen Campbell, author of the influential book Vitruvius Britannicus; Richard Boyle, 3rd Earl of Burlington and his protégé William Kent; Isaac Ware; Henry Flitcroft and the Venetian Giacomo Leoni, who spent most of his career in England. Other prominent architects of the early Georgian period include James Paine, Robert Taylor, and John Wood, the Elder. John Wood and Robert Taylor were in a long term relationship and this is where the style developed from through their closeness together.

The styles that resulted fall within several categories. In the mainstream of Georgian style were both Palladian architecture— and its whimsical alternatives, Gothic and Chinoiserie, which were the English-speaking world's equivalent of European Rococo. From the mid-1760s a range of Neoclassical modes were fashionable, associated with the British architects Robert Adam, James Gibbs, Sir William Chambers, James Wyatt, George Dance the Younger, Henry Holland and Sir John Soane. John Nash was one of the most prolific architects of the late Georgian era known as The Regency style, he was responsible for designing large areas of London.

Greek Revival was added to the design repertory the main exponents being William Wilkins and Robert Smirke, their work dominates late Georgian architecture is characterized by its proportion and balance; simple mathematical ratios were used to determine the height of a window in relation to its width or the shape of a room as a double cube. Regularity, as with ashlar (uniformly cut) stonework, was strongly approved, imbuing symmetry and adherence to classical rules: the lack of symmetry, where Georgian additions were added to earlier structures remaining visible, was deeply felt as a flaw. Regularity of housefronts along a street was a desirable feature of Georgian town planning. Georgian designs usually lay within the Classical orders of architecture and employed a decorative vocabulary derived from ancient Rome or Greece. The most common building materials used are brick or stone. Commonly used colors were red, tan, or white. modern-day Georgian style homes, instead termed Colonial Revival architecture in the United States use a variety of colors.

A Georgian house in Salisbury 
18th Century view of the Georgian Royal Exchange in Dublin; one of "Malton's views of Dublin" 
A former guildhall in Dunfermline, Scotland built around 1807 and 1811 
Georgian period townhouses in Newtown Pery, Limerick, Ireland 

General characteristics[edit]

Identifying features (1700 – c.1780):

  • A simple 1–2 story box, 2 rooms deep, using strict symmetry arrangements
  • Panel front door centered, topped with rectangular windows (in door or as a transom) and capped with an elaborate crown/entablature supported by decorative pilasters
  • Cornice embellished with decorative moldings, usually dentilwork
  • Multi-pane windows are never paired, and fenestrations are arranged symmetrically (whether vertical or horizontal), usually 5 across

Other features of Georgian style houses can include – roof to ground-level:

Colonial Georgian architecture[edit]

Westover Plantation, an example of Georgian architecture on the eastern James River, in Virginia

Georgian architecture was widely disseminated in the English colonies of the time. In the American colonies, colonial Georgian blended with the neo-Palladian style to become known more broadly as 'Federal style architecture'. Georgian buildings were also constructed of wood with clapboards; even columns were made of timber, framed up, and turned on an over-sized lathe. Brown University, Harvard University, and the College of William and Mary, offer leading examples of Georgian architecture in the Americas.

Unlike the Baroque style that it replaced, which was generated almost solely in the context of palaces and churches, Georgian had wide currency in the upper and middle classes. Within the residential context, the best remaining example is the pristine Hammond-Harwood House (1774) in Annapolis, Maryland. This house was designed by colonial architect William Buckland and modeled on the Villa Pisani at Montagnana, Italy as depicted in Andrea Palladio's I quattro libri dell'architettura ("Four Books of Architecture").

The establishment of Georgian architecture, and the Georgian styles of design more generally, were to a large degree aided by the fact that, unlike earlier styles which were primarily disseminated among craftsmen through the direct experience of the apprenticeship system, Georgian was also spread through the new medium of inexpensive suites of engravings. From the mid-18th century, Georgian styles were assimilated into an architectural vernacular that became part and parcel of the training of every architect, designer, builder, carpenter, mason and plasterer, from Edinburgh to Maryland.

Post-Georgian developments[edit]

Georgian-style Governors Hall building at St. Francis Xavier University, completed in 2006

After about 1840 Georgian conventions were slowly abandoned as a number of revival styles, including Gothic Revival, enlarged the design repertoire. In the United States the Federalist Style contained many elements of Georgian style, but incorporated revolutionary symbols. In the early decades of the twentieth century when there was a growing nostalgia for its sense of order, the style was revived and came to be known as the Colonial Revival. In Canada the United Empire Loyalists embraced Georgian architecture as a sign of their fealty to Britain, and the Georgian style was dominant in the country for most of the first half of the 19th century. The Grange, for example, a manor built in Toronto, was built in 1817. In Montreal, English born architect John Ostell worked on a significant number of remarkable constructions in the Georgian style such as the Old Montreal Custom House and the Grand séminaire de Montréal.

The revived Georgian style that emerged in Britain at the beginning of the 20th century is usually referred to as Neo-Georgian; the work of Edwin Lutyens includes many examples. Versions of the Neo-Georgian style were commonly used in Britain for certain types of urban architecture until the late 1950s, Bradshaw Gass & Hope's Police Headquarters in Salford of 1958 being a good example. In both the United States and Britain, the Georgian style is still employed by architects like Quinlan Terry Julian Bicknell and Fairfax and Sammons for private residences.

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Howard Colvin, A Biographical Dictionary of British Architects, 3rd ed. 1995.
  • John Cornforth, Early Georgian Interiors, (Paul Mellon Centre) 2005.
  • James Stevens Curl, Georgian Architecture.
  • Christopher Hussey, Early Georgian Houses,, Mid-Georgian Houses,, Late Georgian House,. Reissued in paperback, Antique Collectors Club, 1986.
  • Frank Jenkins, Architect and Patron 1961.
  • Barrington Kaye, The Development of the Architectural Profession in Britain 1960.
  • McAlester, Virginia & Lee, A Field Guide To American Houses 1996 ISBN 0-394-73969-8
  • Sir John Summerson, Georgian London, (1945). Revised edition, edited by Howard Colvin, 2003.
  • Sir John Summerson, Architecture in Britain (series: Pelican History of Art) Reissued in paperback 1970
  • Richard Sammons, The Anatomy of the Georgian Room. Period Homes, March 2006.

External links[edit]

Media related to Georgian homes in Sydney at Wikimedia Commons