Classical Architecture in the Twentieth Century

Viewed from the vantage point of the 1920s, it is apparent that Classicism was undergoing continuous reinterpretation in the early twentieth century. The Edwardian era had been dominated by the Baroque Grand Manner, but by the midpoint of Edward VII’s

Keywords: 1920s, Classicism, twentieth century, Edwardian era, Baroque, Grand Manner, Edward VII, steel frame construction, Midland Bank, Sir Edwin Lutyens, Arts and Crafts, City Hall and Baths, Liverpool School of Architecture, Charles Reilly, Senate House, Carliol House

Viewed from the vantage point of the 1920s, it is apparent that Classicism was undergoing continuous reinterpretation in the early twentieth century. The Edwardian era had been dominated by the Baroque Grand Manner, but by the midpoint of Edward VII’s reign Baroque was beginning to fall from grace. This has been attributed to the development of steel frame construction, which made the animated plasticity of Baroque stonework seem untenable. Another factor was the emergence of new schools of architecture, which tended to endorse purer modes of Classicism. For these reasons, ‘All forms of classical architecture, other than the Baroque, suddenly seemed interesting to many architects.’

Numerous variations of Classicism occurred in the years leading to the First World War, and many of these continued to develop after 1918. Former Arts and Crafts practitioners created public and commercial buildings in a bold Classical style. For example, Sir Edwin Lutyens designed Nos. 67 and 68 Pall Mall (1928-30) and the Midland Bank in Manchester (1929), both remarkable for their geometric massing.

Midland Bank in Manchester (1929)

Much neo-Georgian work was produced in the 1910s and 20s, manifested in Newcastle by the City Hall and Baths in Northumberland Road (1928, by C. Nicholas and J.E. Dixon-Spain). The neo-Georgian style appeared in domestic architecture as well as public buildings. A monumental civic Classicism became prominent in Liverpool, where Charles Reilly, director of the Liverpool School of Architecture, was a major proponent. As a port, Liverpool was receptive to transatlantic influence and became the chief conduit for American-style Classicism. In the 1920s and 30s Classicism was reduced to the severe, almost abstract form known as Stripped Classicism. Notable examples include the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (1926-8) by P. Morley Horder and V. Rees, and Senate House (1932-8) by Charles Holden.

School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (1926-8) by P. Morley Horder and V. Rees

Senate House (1932-8) by Charles Holden

In Newcastle, Carliol House (1924-8) and the Magistrates Court, Police and Fire Station (1931-3) typify this new idiom; both resemble London’s interwar architecture. Thus, the Classical tradition continued, but was adapted in various ways for the new century. This helps to clarify the nature of Newcastle’s Classical tradition, revealing it as part of the long remarking of Classicism that occurred throughout the period and beyond.

Carliol House, Newcastle (1924-8)

For other aspects of Classical architecture, see:

https://knoji.com/the-greek-revival/

https://knoji.com/the-picturesque/

https://knoji.com/palladianism-the-incredible-influence-of-andrea-palladio/

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Patrick Regoniel
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