British Neoclassical Architects

Instructor: Summer Stewart

Summer has taught creative writing and sciences at the college level. She holds an MFA in Creative writing and a B.A.S. in English and Nutrition

The neoclassical period in Britain was a movement that supported a return to the ideals of ancient Rome. John Nash, Phillip Hardwick, and James Wyatt are just three of Britain's finest neoclassical architects, who we will learn about in this lesson.

Neoclassical British Architecture

Starting around the mid-eighteenth century, the neoclassical movement took a strong hold in Britain. Architects throughout the country incorporated concepts from ancient Rome and Greece into their designs. Neoclassical architecture was all about symmetry, antiquity, and grand features. Large pillars, columns, rotundas, arcades, and porticoes mark neoclassical buildings. It's all about a return to the classical designs of the ancients.

Now, it's important to understand that not all neoclassical architecture is classical architecture! Neoclassical architecture was a revival of classical architecture largely in terms of its structural appearance, which means that architects incorporated classical ideas into their work to show appreciation of antiquity. It wasn't a movement that supported a complete cultural return to the olden days. In this lesson, we will learn about John Nash, Philip Hardwick, and James Wyatt, three well-known neoclassical architects of this period.

John Nash

West Facing Side of Buckingham Palace

In 1766 John Nash apprenticed under British architect Sir Robert Taylor, but he didn't really bloom until 1806. Before he became a well-known architect, Nash was plagued by family matters. His wife, Jane, faked two pregnancies and tried to pawn off two random children as belonging to herself and Nash! It only gets worse: when he sent her away to live with a cousin, she had an affair with another man and had his child. In 1787, Nash was finally allowed to divorce her, and it seems that afterwards he was able to pursue a career as an architect.

After a series of failed investments, in 1806 the Prince Regent appointed Nash as the principal architect for the Surveyor General of Woods, Forests, Parks, and Chases. From then on, Nash would complete dozens of commissions for the Prince, including St. James's Park, Park Crescent in London, and the Royal Pavilion in Brighton. Nash's name became a part of British history in 1813, when he succeeded the late James Wyatt--who we'll meet in this lesson--as an official architect for the Office of Works. As an official architect, he went on to design landmarks including the western front of Buckingham Palace, All Souls Church, The King's Opera House, and the redesign of the Haymarket Theatre.

Philip Hardwick

Euston Arch by Phillip Hardwick
Euston Arch by Phillip Hardwick

Philip Hardwick was a prominent British architect who made his career designing train stations and public buildings. Although Hardwick is classified as a neoclassical architect, it is important to discuss the fact that he loved to depart from those concepts to work with styles such as Tudor, Jacobean, and Gothic. He studied under his father, who was also an architect. He began work as an architect for the Goldsmiths' Company in 1829, which helped him to launch his career in designing public buildings.

Hardwick built the Euston Arch in 1837 while working for the London and Birmingham Railway. The Euston Arch is a propylaea, a type of archway originating from ancient Greece; the archway that leads to the Acropolis in Athens is a propylaea. The Euston Arch had four columns supporting the massive arch, which was 70 feet tall. In the 1960s, the arch was torn down due to reconstruction. Other famous designs by Hardwick include the Curzon Street Station in Birmingham, the City of London Club, All Saints Church, and the Albert Dock Warehouses.

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