Flemish Renaissance Revival: Architecture & Style

Instructor: Stephanie Przybylek

Stephanie has taught studio art and art history classes to audiences of all ages. She holds a master's degree in Art History.

Have you ever seen a building with a distinctive stepped shape near its roofline? Where does such an unusual feature originate? In this lesson, explore an architectural style called Flemish Renaissance Revival.

What is Flemish Renaissance Revival Architecture?

In cities like New York and Milwaukee, some brick and stone structures have interesting stepped silhouettes near their roofs. Such buildings are examples of Flemish Renaissance Revival architecture.

Flemish Renaissance Revival architecture was inspired by the 17th-century architecture of Northern Europe, especially Belgium and The Netherlands. Because of this geographic inspiration, the style is sometimes also called Northern Renaissance Revival or just Flemish Revival.

A note here about the more general term 'Renaissance Revival.' You'll see it connected to several architectural styles of the late 19th and early 20th century, like French Renaissance Revival, Italian Renaissance Revival and Spanish Renaissance Revival. It's sort of a catch-all term, a way of identifying architectural styles that echoed elements of earlier styles other than Greek and Gothic architecture.

In Europe, Flemish Revival architecture began appearing in the 1870s and 1880s. A Belgian architect named Emile Janlet helped popularize it when he used it on the Belgian Pavilion for the World Exposition in Paris in 1878. Examples of it appeared in places like Antwerp, Belgium and in London.

In the United States, the style became popular in the 1890s in places like New York City, which had a background as an early Dutch colony. The style became very prominent in Milwaukee, a city with a large population of German immigrants and people of German descent, some of whom were become very prosperous. Notable examples of Flemish Renaissance Revival architecture in Milwaukee include the Pabst Mansion (yes, related to a successful beer brewer), built in 1892 and the towering Milwaukee City Hall in 1895.

Milwaukee City Hall

Characteristics of Flemish Renaissance Revival Style

Flemish Renaissance Revival architecture isn't as common as some other revival styles, but you'll recognize it when you see it.

Pabst Mansion, an example of Flemish Renaissance Revival architecture
Pabst Mansion

Most structures are large and made of red brick or of stone like sandstone or limestone. If brick, the structure might have rubbed brickwork, which means the brick surfaces have been smoothed to make them more even. Some buildings might also have carved terra cotta decorations on their exteriors.

The most identifiable feature of Flemish Renaissance Revival is probably the stepped gable. A gable, by the way, is usually a triangular section where the wall and roof line meet. Some structures might have scalloped gables, shaped with a series of convex and concave curves. Behind the decorative gables, the roofs on these structures tend to be very steep.

Stepped gable on a structure in New York City
Stepped gable

To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use Study.com

Become a Study.com member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about Study.com
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? Study.com has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account