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Gothic Revival architecture

Votivkirche, Neo-Gothic church in Vienna. Sir Christopher Wren's Tom Tower, at Christ Church, Oxford The upper chapel of the Sainte Chapelle, restored by Eugène Viollet-le-Duc in the 19th century
Saint Clotilde Basilica completed 1857, Paris The House of Lords in the Palace of Westminster designed by A.W.N. Pugin Detail of St. Andrew's Anglican Church in Moscow
Oxford University Museum of Natural History Cast-iron gothic tracery supports a bridge by Calvert Vaux, Central Park, New York City Gothic detailing on the Tribune Tower in Chicago
Victoria Tower at the Palace of Westminster, London: Gothic details provided by A.W.N. Pugin
The Lady Chapel of Liverpool Cathedral, designed by Giles Gilbert Scott overseen by G F Bodley Victoria Tower at the Palace of Westminster, London: Gothic details provided by A.W.N. Pugin Gothic House in Puławy, 1800-09
     
 
The Gothic Revival was an architectural movement which originated in mid-18th century England. In the 19th century, increasingly serious and learned neo-Gothic styles sought to revive medieval forms, in distinction to the classical styles which were prevalent at the time. The movement had significant influence throughout the United Kingdom as well as in Europe and North America, and perhaps more Gothic architecture was built in both the 19th century and 20th century than had originally ever been built.

In literature, the architectural Gothic Revival and classical Romanticism gave rise to the Gothic novel genre, beginning with Castle of Otranto (1764) by Horace Walpole, 4th Earl of Orford, and inspired a 19th century genre of medieval poetry which stems from the pseudo-bardic poetry of "Ossian." Poems like "Idylls of the King" by Alfred Tennyson, 1st Baron Tennyson recast specifically modern themes in medieval settings of Arthurian romance.

History

The Chesma palace church (1780), St Petersburg is a rare example of the Russian Gothic style.

The Chesma palace church (1780), St Petersburg is a rare example of the Russian Gothic style.

Survival and revival
Gothic architecture did not die out completely in the 15th century, but instead lingered on in on-going cathedral-building projects and the construction of churches in increasingly isolated rural districts of England, France, Spain and Germany. In Bologna, in 1646, the Baroque architect Carlo Rainaldi constructed Gothic vaults (completed 1658) for the Basilica of San Petronio which had been under construction since 1390; there, the Gothic context of the structure overrode considerations of the current architectural mode. Similarly, Gothic architecture survived in an urban setting during the later 17th century, as shown in Oxford and Cambridge, where some additions and repairs to Gothic buildings were apparently considered to be more in keeping with the style of the original structures than contemporary Baroque. Sir Christopher Wren's Tom Tower for Christ Church College, Oxford University, and, later, Nicholas Hawksmoor's west towers of Westminster Abbey, blur the boundaries between what is called "Gothic survival" and the Gothic revival.


Imitation fan-vaulting in the Gothick Long Gallery at Horace Walpole's Strawberry Hill

In the mid 18th century, with the rise of Romanticism, an increased interest and awareness of the Middle Ages among some influential connoisseurs created a more appreciative approach to selected medieval arts, beginning with church architecture, the tomb monuments of royal and noble personnages, stained glass, and late Gothic illuminated manuscripts. Other Gothic arts continued to be disregarded as barbaric and crude, however: tapestries and metalwork, as examples. Sentimental and nationalist associations with historical figures were as strong in this early revival, as purely aesthetic concerns. A few Britons, and soon some Germans, began to appreciate the picturesque character of ruins— "picturesque" becoming a new aesthetic quality— and those mellowing effects of time that the Japanese call wabi-sabi and which Horace Walpole independently admired, mildly tongue-in-cheek, as "the true rust of the Barons' wars." The "Gothick" details of Walpole's Twickenham villa, "Strawberry Hill," (illustrated, left) appealed to the rococo tastes of the time, and by the 1770s, thoroughly neoclassical architects such as Robert Adam and James Wyatt were prepared to provide Gothic details in drawing-rooms, libraries, and chapels, for a romantic vision of a Gothic abbey, Fonthill Abbey in Wiltshire. Inveraray Castle, constructed from 1746 with design input from William Adam, displays early revival of Gothic features in Scotland. The "Gothick" style was an architectural manifestation of the artificial "picturesque" seen elsewhere in the arts: these ornamental temples and summer-houses ignored the structural logic of true Gothic buildings and were effectively Palladian buildings with pointed arches. The eccentric landscape designer Batty Langley even attempted to "improve" Gothic forms by giving them classical proportions.

Hartwell Church, Buckinghamshire designed by Henry Keene and completed in 1755. Described by Pevsner as one of the most important early Gothic revival churches in England.  It is octagonal, and has twin towers.
Hartwell Church, Buckinghamshire designed by Henry Keene and completed in 1755. Described by Pevsner as one of the most important early Gothic revival churches in England. It is octagonal, and has twin towers.

A younger generation who took Gothic architecture more seriously provided the readership for J. Britten's series of Cathedral Antiquities, which began appearing in 1814. In 1817, Thomas Rickman wrote an Attempt... to name and define the sequence of Gothic styles in English ecclesiastical architecture, "a text-book for the architectural student". Its long title is descriptive: Attempt to discriminate the styles of English architecture from the Conquest to the Reformation; preceded by a sketch of the Grecian and Roman orders, with notices of nearly five hundred English buildings. The categories he used were Norman, Early English, Decorated and Perpendicular. It went through numerous editions and was still being republished in 1881.

Romanticism and nationalism
French neo-Gothic had its roots in a minor aspect of Anglomanie, starting in the late 1780s. In 1816, when French scholar Alexandre de Laborde said "Gothic architecture has beauties of its own," the idea was novel to most French readers. Starting in 1828, Alexandre Brogniart, the director of the Sèvres porcelain manufactory, produced fired enamel paintings on large panes of plate glass, for Louis-Philippe's royal chapel at Dreux. It would be hard to find a large, significant commission in Gothic taste that preceded this one, save for some Gothic features in a handful of jardins à l'anglaise.

The French Gothic revival was set on sounder intellectual footings by a pioneer, Arcisse de Caumont, who founded the Societé des Antiquaires de Normandy at a time when antiquaire still meant a connoisseur of antiquities, and who published his great work on Norman architecture in 1830 (Summerson 1948). The following year Victor Hugo's Notre Dame de Paris appeared, in which the great Gothic cathedral of Paris was at once a setting and a protagonist in a hugely popular work of fiction. In the same year the new French monarchy established a post of Inspector-General of Ancient Monuments, a post filled in 1833 by Prosper Merimée, who became the secretary of a new Commission des Monuments Historiques in 1837. This was the Commission that instructed Eugène Viollet-le-Duc to report on the condition of the abbey of Vézelay in 1840.

Meanwhile, in Germany, interest in the Cologne Cathedral, which had begun construction in 1248 and was still unfinished at the time of the revival, began to reappear. The 1820s Romantic movement brought back interest, and work began once more in 1824, significantly marking a German return of Gothic architecture.


Schloss Braunfels

Because of Romantic nationalism in the early 19th century, the Germans, French and English all claimed the original Gothic architecture of the 12th century as originating in their own country. The English boldly coined the term "Early English" for Gothic, a term that implied Gothic architecture was an English creation. In his 1832 edition of Notre Dame de Paris Victor Hugo said "Let us inspire in the nation, if it is possible, love for the national architecture", implying that Gothic was France's national heritage. In Germany with the completion of Cologne Cathedral in the 1880s, at the time the world's tallest building, the cathedral was seen as the height of Gothic architecture. In Florence, the Duomo's façade was demolished in 1587-1588, and stood bare until 1864, when a competition was held to design a new facade suitable to Arnolfo di Cambio's structure and the fine campanile next to it. This competition was won by Emilio De Fabris, and work on his polychrome design and panels of mosaic was begun in 1876 and completed in 1887.

Pugin, Ruskin and the Gothic as a moral force
In the late 1820s, A.W.N. Pugin, still a teenager, was working for two highly visible employers, providing Gothic detailing for luxury goods. For the Royal furniture makers Morel and Seddon he provided designs for redecorations for the elderly George IV at Windsor Castle in a Gothic taste suited to the setting. For the royal silversmiths Rundell Bridge and Co., Pugin provided designs for silver from 1828, using the 14th-century Anglo-French Gothic vocabulary that he would continue to favor later in designs for the new Palace of Westminster (see below) [1].

In Contrasts (1836), Pugin expressed his admiration not only for mediæval art but the whole mediæval ethos, claiming that Gothic architecture was the product of a purer society. In The True Principles of Pointed or Christian Architecture (1841), he suggested that modern craftsmen seeking to emulate the style of medieval workmanship should also reproduce its methods. Pugin believed Gothic was true Christian architecture, boldly saying "The pointed arch was produced by the Catholic faith". Pugin's most famous building is The Houses of Parliament in London, which he designed in two campaigns, 1836 — 1837 and again in 1844 and 1852, with the classicist Charles Barry as his co-architect. Pugin provided the external decoration and the interiors, while Barry designed the symmetrical layout of the building, causing Pugin to remark, "All Grecian, Sir; Tudor details on a classic body".

The National Academy of Design in New York (1863-65), one of many Gothic Revival buildings modelled on the Doge's Palace
The National Academy of Design in New York (1863-65), one of many Gothic Revival buildings modelled on the Doge's Palace

John Ruskin supplemented Pugin's ideas in his two hugely influential theoretical works, The Seven Lamps of Architecture (1849) and The Stones of Venice (1853). Finding his architectural ideal in Venice, Ruskin proposed that Gothic buildings excelled above all other architecture because of the "sacrifice" of the stone-carvers in intricately decorating every stone. By declaring the Doge's Palace to be "the central building of the world", Ruskin argued the case for Gothic government buildings as Pugin had done for churches, though only in theory. When his ideas were put into practice, Ruskin despised the spate of public buildings built with references to the Ducal Palace, including the University Museum in Oxford.

G.E. Street's Royal Courts of Justice in The Strand, London, 1882, his masterwork, proclaim the medieval source of Common Law
G.E. Street's Royal Courts of Justice in The Strand, London, 1882, his masterwork, proclaim the medieval source of Common Law

In England, the Church of England was undergoing a revival of Anglo-Catholic and ritualist ideology in the form of the Oxford Movement and it became desirable to build large numbers of new churches to cater for the growing population. This found ready exponents in the universities, where the ecclesiological movement was forming. Its proponents believed that Gothic was the only style appropriate for a parish church, and favoured a particular era of Gothic architecture — the "decorated". The Ecclesiologist, the publication of the Cambridge Camden Society, was so savagely critical of new church buildings that were below its exacting standards that a style called the 'archaeological Gothic' emerged, producing some of the most convincingly mediæval buildings of the Gothic revival. However, not every architect or client was swept away by this tide. Although Gothic Revival succeeded in becoming an increasingly familiar style of architecture, the attempt to associate it with superiority of the high church, as advocated by Pugin and the ecclesiological movement, was anathema to those with ecumenical or nonconformist principles. They looked to adopt it solely for its aesthetic romantic qualities, to combine it with other styles or look to northern Europe for Gothic of a more plain appearance, and to consciously choose a quite different style; or in some instances all three of these as at the ecumenical Abney Park Cemetery for whom the architect William Hosking FSA was engaged.

Viollet-le-Duc and Iron Gothic
If France had not been quite as early on the neo-Gothic scene, she produced a giant of the revival in Eugène Viollet-le-Duc. As well as being a powerful and influential theorist, Viollet-le-Duc was a leading architect whose genius lay in restoration. He believed in restoring buildings to a state of completion that they would not have known even when they were first built, theories he applied to his restorations of the walled city of Carcassonne and Notre-Dame and Sainte Chapelle in Paris. In this respect he differed from his English counterpart Ruskin as he often replaced the work of mediaeval stonemasons. His rational approach to Gothic was in stark contrast to the revival’s romanticist origins, and considered by some to be a prelude to the structural honesty demanded by Modernism.

Throughout his career he remained in a quandary as to whether iron and masonry should be combined in a building. Iron had in fact been used in Gothic buildings since the earliest days of the revival. It was only with Ruskin and the archaeological Gothic's demand for structural truth that iron, whether it was visible or not, was deemed improper for a Gothic building. This argument began to collapse in the mid-19th century as great prefabricated structures such as the glass and iron Crystal Palace and the glazed courtyard of the Oxford University Museum were erected, which appeared to embody Gothic principles through iron. Between 1863 and 1872 Viollet-le-Duc published his Entretiens sur l’architecture, a set of daring designs for buildings that combined iron and masonry. Though these projects were never realised, they influenced several generations of designers and architects, notably Antonio Gaudi.

Gasson Hall on the campus of Boston College in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, by Charles Donagh Maginnis, 1908-1913
Gasson Hall on the campus of Boston College in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, by Charles Donagh Maginnis, 1908-1913

The 20th century and beyond

Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church (RC), Kensington Church Street, London. Late neo-Gothic by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, 1954-59.
Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church (RC), Kensington Church Street, London. Late neo-Gothic by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, 1954-59.
The Cathedral of Learning in Pittsburgh
The Cathedral of Learning in Pittsburgh

At the turn of the 20th Century, technological developments such as the light bulb, the elevator, and steel framing caused many to see architecture that used load-bearing masonry as obsolete. Steel framing supplanted the non-ornamental functions of rib vaults and flying buttresses. Some architects used Neo-Gothic tracery as applied ornament to an iron skeleton underneath, for example in Cass Gilbert's 1907 Woolworth Building skyscraper in New York and Raymond Hood's 1922 Tribune Tower in Chicago. But over the first half of the century, Neo-Gothic became supplanted by Modernism. Some in the Modern Movement saw the Gothic tradition of architectural form entirely in terms of the "honest expression" of the technology of the day, and saw themselves as the rightful heir to this tradition, with their rectangular frames and exposed iron girders.

In spite of this, the Gothic revival continued to exert its influence, simply because many of its more massive projects were still being built well into the second half of the 20th century, such as Giles Gilbert Scott's Liverpool Cathedral. In the USA, Charles Donagh Maginnis's early buildings at Boston College helped establish the prevalence of Collegiate Gothic architecture on American university campuses. The Gothic revival skyscraper on the University of Pittsburgh's campus, the Cathedral of Learning, for example, used very Gothic stylings both inside and out, while using modern technologies to make the building taller. Ralph Adams Cram became a leading force in American Gothic, with his most ambitious project the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine in New York (claimed to be the largest Cathedral in the world), as well as Collegiate Gothic buildings at Princeton University. Cram said "the style hewn out and perfected by our ancestors [has] become ours by uncontested inheritance." In addition to Princeton University and Boston College some of the buildings on West Chester University's campus are also built in the Collegiate Gothic style. Indeed, Atlanta's historic Oglethorpe University continues to build in the Collegiate Gothic style to this day.

Though the number of new Gothic revival buildings declined sharply after the 1930s, they continue to be built. The cathedral of Bury St. Edmunds was constructed between the late 1950s and 2005 [2]. In 2002, Demetri Porphyrios was commissioned to design a neo-Gothic residential college at Princeton University to be known as Whitman College. Porphyrios has won several commissions after votes by student bodies [citation needed], not university design committees, confirming what modernist architects have suspected: that neo-gothic architecture may be more popular among the public, in spite of resistance to gothic as a "style" among the architectural establishment, and cost restraints..

John Vaughan, "Thomas Rickman’s essay on Gothic architecture" from Paradigm, No 7 (December, 1991) 

Further reading
Clark, Sir Kenneth The Gothic Revival: An Essay in the History of Taste ISBN 0719502330 
Hunter-Stiebel, Penelope, Of knights and spires: Gothic revival in France and Germany, , 1989 ISBN 0916849059 
Summerson, Sir John, 1948. "Viollet-le-Duc and the rational point of view" collected in Heavenly Mansions and other essays on Architecture.