Inigo Jones and Christopher WrenCategory: Culture
The Italian Renaissance in Britain. Inigo Jones’ Masterpieces. Classical Design. Architecture and Industrial Revolution
Inigo Jones was the first man to bring the Italian Renaissance style to Great Britain. He had studied in Italy for some years, and in 1615 became Surveyor-General of the works.
The style he built in was pure Italian with as few modifications as possible. His buildings were very un-English in character, with regularly spaced columns along the front.
His two most revolutionary designs were the Banqueting House in Whitehall and the Queen’s House at Greenwich. The plan of the latter, completely symmetrical, with its strict classical details and the principal rooms on the first floor, influenced architecture in Britain. But not during the lifetime of Inigo Jones. All those who followed him had to adapt this new foreign building technique to English ways and English climate, English building materials and English craftsmen.
Christopher Wren was the man, who did it. He was a mathematician, an astronomer, and, above all, an inventor. He invented new ways of using traditional English building materials, brick and ordinary roofing tiles, to keep within the limits of classical design. He, like Inigo Jones, was appointed Surveyor-General to the Crown when he was about thirty years old, and almost immediately he started rebuilding the churches of London, burnt down in the Great Fire of 1666. Wren’s churches are chiefly known by their beautiful spires which show in their structure the greatest engineering cunning.
But Ch. Wren also influenced the design of houses, both in town and in the country.
The best-known buildings designed by Ch. Wren are the dome of St. Paul’s and Hampton Court Palace.
The period of the Industrial Revolution had no natural style of its own. Businessmen wanted art for their money. The architect was to provide a fasade in the Gothic style, or he was to turn the building into something like a Norman castle, or a Renaissance palace, or even an Oriental mosque. For theatres and opera houses the theatrical Baroque style was often most suitable. Churches were more often than not built in the Gothic style. The twentieth century has seen great changes in Britain’s architecture.