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Sir William Chambers

Sir William Chambers (October 27, 1723 - February 17, 1796) was a Scottish architect, born in Gothenburg, Sweden, where his father was a merchant. Between 1740 and 1749 he was employed by the Swedish East India Company making several voyages to China where he studied Chinese architecture and decoration.

Returning to Europe, he studied architecture in Paris (with J. F. Blondel) and spent five years in Italy. Then, in 1755, he travelled to England and established an architectural practice in London. Through a recommendation of the 4th Earl of Bute he was appointed architectural tutor to the Prince of Wales, later George III, and also, with Robert Adam, Architect of the King's Works. He worked for Augusta, Dowager Princess of Wales making fanciful garden buildings at Kew, and in 1757 he published a book of Chinese designs which had quite an influence on contemporary taste.

In 1759 his more serious and academic Treatise on Civil Architecture had an influence on builders; it went into several editions and was still being republished in 1826. His influence was transmitted also through a host of younger architects trained as pupils in his office, including Thomas Hardwick Junior (1752-1825) who helped build Somerset House with him and who wrote a biography of Chambers's life.

He was the major rival of Adam in British Neoclassicism. Chambers was more international in outlook (his knighthood being originally a Swedish honour) and was influenced by continental neoclassicism (which he in turn influenced) when designing for British clients. A second visit to Paris in 1774 confirmed the French cast to his sober and conservative refined blend of Neoclassicism and Palladian conventions.

Chambers died in London in 1796. He is buried in Westminster Abbey.

Designs of Chinese buildings, furniture, dresses, machines, and utensils : to which is annexed a description of their temples, houses, gardens, &c (London) 1757
Desseins des edifices, meubles, habits, machines, et ustenciles des Chinois ; Auxquels est ajoutée une descr. de leurs temples, de leurs maisons, de leurs jardins, etc. (London) 1757
A treatise on civil architecture in which the principles of that art are laid down and illustrated by a great number of plates accurately designed and elegantly engraved by the best hands (London) 1759
Plans, Elevations, Sections and Perspective Views of the Gardens and Buildings at Kew in Surry (London) 1763
A dissertation on oriental gardening. (London) 1772

Main works
Roehampton Villa (largely extant including interior ceilings), now called Parkstead House, for William Ponsonby, 2nd Earl of Bessborough. Also designed two garden temples (one to be re-erected by 2008), similar to those at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.[1]
The Pagoda, in Pagoda Gardens, Blackheath, London is attributed to Chambers. A three-storey house built as a pavilion (c. 1775) for the Duke and Duchess of Buccleuch, it features a gabled Chinese-style roof with dramatic upturned corners. Caroline of Brunswick lived here after her separation from her husband, the Prince Regent, in 1799.
Somerset House in London, his most famous building, which absorbed most of his energies over a period of two decades (1776–1796)
The gilded state coach that is still used at coronations.
The Dunmore Pineapple, a folly in Dunmore Park near Falkirk, is often attributed to Chambers.
For James Caulfeild, 1st Earl of Charlemont, he designed Charlemont House and the Casino at Marino, as well as the Chapel and Theatre in Trinity College, Dublin.
He is also associated with Gothic additions to Milton Abbey in Dorset and the planning of the nearby rural village of Milton Abbas, sometimes considered the first planned settlement in England. This work was carried out in collaboration with landscape gardener Capability Brown in 1780 for Joseph Damer, the Earl of Dorchester, who wanted to relocate the existing village further away from his home at the Abbey.

The central courtyard of Chambers' Somerset House in London. The pavement fountain was installed in the 1990s.