London undoubtedly possesses great architecture which spans the period from the eleventh to the twentieth centuries. As in every scientific discipline, architecture has developed, with each new development growing from the seeds of its predecessors. This gives rise to a series of Architectural Styles. The development of these styles in England was substantially different from the parallel development on the continent of Europe. It is still possible to trace that development in the buildings and fragments that can still be seen in London today. This major series sets out to describe and explore that development from the Norman Tower of London down to the stunning modern redesign of the inner court of the British Museum.
The nave of old St Paul's
Architecture is arguably the most prominent of the great arts. When tourists visit the great sites of the ancient world they spend by far the greatest amount of time looking at the remains of the architectural treasures left to us. London, in common with all great cities, has its architectural treasures which are viewed daily by thousands of tourists. But how many of them really understand what they are looking at ? Like any other artistic or scientific discipline, architecture over the years has developed its own jargon to describe the detail of its methods and structures. However, the leading characteristics of the various architectural styles are so broad that the non-architect can understand them with minimal knowledge of the jargon.
Nothing of the Roman buildings of London which could be called architecture remains standing above ground in London. The few remains of the third century city wall that can still be seen are all that we have from that era. The Romans in London were followed by the Saxons and the Danes, neither of whom were great builders. It is only from the reign of Edward the Confessor (1042-1066) that we begin to find substantial architectural remains in London.
Plan of the Temple Church
Edward was the last of the Anglo-Saxon kings and was, of course, responsible for the foundation construction of Westminster Abbey in 1055. However, the Abbey was not completed until 1100 and it is usual to include it in the catalogue of Norman Architecture in London. When the Normans arrived in England in 1066 they were already the foremost builders of their time in Europe and many of their great buildings still survive in Normandy and Sicily as well as England.
The great patron of building throughout the middle ages was, of course, the Church and the principal examples of historical architecture which can still be seen in London today are churches. The single largest body of these that survive to delight the eye today is that which was constructed after the disaster of the Great Fire of London in 1666. Of course the single name associated with the majority of these is Christopher Wren. However, is not the only architect to have left an indelible stamp on the face of London and in this Major series will trace the development of the various architectural styles which have defined London's physical image over the centuries.
The links to the articles already available follow below. There are also, on the site, short occasional pieces on individual buildings in London and these can be accessed in Building Notes.
Articles already published in the Series
The Architecture of London: Part One - English Romanesque.
There are also occasional major articles on some of London's buildings and open spaces which are not primarily architectural in focus but may be of interest. These are also listed here.
The National Gallery