Architectural Styles Across London

There is a vast array of architectural styles across London. The most popular architectural styles that can be seen in London today are as follows:

Traditional

 

Georgian

As an architectural style, ‘Georgian’ refers to the period 1780-1820. As a period, it covers the years between 1714 and 1820. Georgian architecture is classical in the majority of the exteriors, influenced by Roman Architecture. The interiors were more elaborate with a wide colour palette. The walls in fashionable houses were panelled from floor to ceiling and divided horizontally into three parts to represent the classical proportions of the column. Walls would have been painted in a single colour, although a darker shade could have been used to emphasise details such as the skirting and door; stronger colours were expensive making it rare but not unheard of. The plasterwork reached a height of delicacy and elegance. Ceilings were divided into segments defined by mouldings around the ceiling rose with details highlighted in white against delicate muted tones. The colours most often used were light blue, lavender, pink and pea green; never primary colours. Fixtures and fittings were also used to introduce colour.

Main Features:

– Generous proportions with high ceilings
– External doors with 6 panels and a fanlight
– Flat or shallow roof partially hidden behind a parapet
– Stucco-faced external ground floor
– Yellow bricks replaced red (it gave a more stone-like appearance)
– Marble or stone fireplace shelf supported by pilasters
– Niches shaped like scallop shells for ornaments
– Plain openings, with deep double-hung sash windows
– Doors and windows have entablatures, pediments, consoles and       either pilasters or columns
– Wallpaper using wood blocks, stencilling or flocking
– Greater use of pine and fir, and less of oak
– Wrought and cast iron balustrades on staircases in one sweeping curve only rising to the first floor (higher floors being served by a secondary staircase)
– Colours of outside ironwork blue or steel blue, doors green or blue, windows dark brown in plain paint or grained
– Plasterwork with smaller compartments arranged around the sides of ceilings leaving large compartments round, square or octagonal in the centre.

Victorian

Victorian architecture was made up of several styles, the main ones being Italianate or Renaissance and Queen Anne or Medieval.
In reaction to the classical style of the previous century, the Victorian age saw a return to traditional British styles in building, Tudor and mock-Gothic being the most popular. Enormous houses were built looking more like great cathedrals rather than houses.
The early Victorian period is characterised by overly elaborate details and decoration; during the late Victorian the style was simpler. The Industrial Revolution made possible the use of new materials such as iron and glass.
A major plus with Victorian homes is the steep pitch of the roof, which makes them great candidates for loft conversions.

Main Features:

– Bay sash windows
– Terracotta tiles
– Ornamental stonework and striped, multi-coloured brickwork
– Warm terracotta colours
– Brick faced houses with painted stucco to emulate stone
– Dark fabrics – red and green – falling into ponderous folds
– Wide mantelpieces on fireplaces to accommodate masses of ornaments
– Cast iron grates
– Baths of very decorative cast iron
– Woodwork painted white (late Victorian)
– Bare floorboard surrounding carpets
– Walls covered in flowered wallpaper
– Elaborately turned balusters and newel posts in staircases
– Wooden dado rail painted white, around the room below a brightly patterned wallpaper
– Picture rail and above the rail a decorative frieze
– Cornices above friezes (High ceilings were unfashionable so all the horizontal lines were used to visually reduce the height of the ceiling)

Edwardian

As an architectural style, ‘Edwardian’ refers to the period 1901 to 1918. As a period, it covers the years between 1901 and 1910.
The Edwardian era was a period of revivalism, taking ideas from the mediaeval and Georgian periods, among others. Houses mixed and matched many influences.
Houses had wider frontages so there was often more room for a hall, in larger houses this was even used as a living room. For example, it would be furnished with a desk and perhaps even a fireplace.
The underlying themes of buildings and interior design of the Edwardian era were for expensive simplicity and sunshine and air. Colours and detailing were lighter than in the late 19th century, looking back to the Georgian era of a century before. The desire for cleanliness continues. As gas and then electric light became more widespread, walls could be lighter as they did not get so dirty and looked better in the brighter light. Decorative patterns were less complex, both wallpaper and curtain designs were plainer.
There was less clutter than in the Victorian era. Ornaments were perhaps grouped rather than everywhere. Displays of flowers were placed to complement the floral fabrics and wallpapers.
Today, fine examples of these homes can be most often found in areas like Dulwich, Southeast London or in the “garden suburbs”.

Main Features:

– Rough cast walls
– Small paned leaded windows
– Magpie work
– Rustic bricks
– Art Nouveau (*) influences in fire places, light fittings, stained glass and door furniture
– Jacobean details such as gargoyles, heraldic devices, mullioned windows, studded doors and Dutch gables
– Houses with Neo-Georgian influence: large bays and sash windows, columns and pilasters
– Half timbering
– Small feature windows to create a picturesque effect
– Wooden porches with turned spindles
– Brackets and decorative fretwork
– No dado rails, leaving only the picture rail
– Walls decorated in uniform colours with contrasting woodwork Bare floorboards decorated with rugs

Art Nouveau

The Art Nouveau period was from 1890 – 1919. Themes in this period would be the rose, iris, water lily, dragonfly, butterfly, snail and peacock. A distinctive feature was the whiplash or spiral of smoke. Another popular motif was the woman’s face with her hair flowing in waves about her as caught in the wind or under water. Strong, asymmetric shapes. Nymphs and fairies emerging from flowers. Naked ladies stretching upwards, holding lights.
This was a very short period and it fell into great disfavour until the 1970’s, for this reason very few whole rooms remain.

Art Deco 

Art Deco style was the first widely popular style to break with the early 20th century styles of Revival and beaux-arts styles. This period refers to the time between 1925 to 1939 It consciously strove for modernity, simplicity, and a streamlined effect – typical of the newly emerging Machine Age.
This style had two phases: Zigzag Moderne of the 1920s and Streamline Moderne of the 1930s and 1940s. Although many public buildings – courthouses, jails, bandstands, schools – were built during the Great Depression in this style, sometimes, the Art Deco designs were not actually built until after World War II!
The style was particularly popular for commercial buildings, such as banks, cinemas and courthouses.

Main features:

– Flat roof
– Two stories stucco walls, painted white or light pastels
– Glass blocks steel casement windows
– Small round windows curved corner walls concrete basement walls
– Low-relief geometrical designs, often with parallel straight lines
– Zigzags, chevrons, and stylized floral motives
– Smooth-faced stone
– Concrete foundations
– Metal railings

1930s

During the 1930s people moved out to the suburbs to take advantage of affordable newly-built homes and better public transport links.
This suburban developments were established in the countryside around existing towns and cities and produced a wide variety of domestic styles – from updated Victorian cottages, Tudor style miniatures manors and “Modern” homes, made from cement and steel with streamlined curves and uncomplicated lines.
The typical house of the 1930’s was generally smaller than those before 1914. It had a front room off a hall, a second living room at the rear and a kitchen. Upstairs there were two large bedrooms, a third much smaller room and bathroom and toilet. An addition to the typical house was the garage. A new pattern was the bungalow with all its rooms on a single level, or the chalet-style bungalow with one or two bedrooms in the roof.
The 1930’s saw a significant increase in the number of flats or apartments built.

Main Features:

– Herringbone brickwork
– Tile-hung walls and weatherboarding
– Diamond shaped leaded panes in wooden framed windows with iron casements
– Red clay roof tiles (not slate)
– Porche with simple hood with console brackets or gabled
– Oak doors with iron nails and fittings
– Two story bay with angled or half rounded sides
– Oak panelling interiors
– False beams

Modern

Before the 1930s, architectural styles had always referred to previous styles. From this point on, however, new buildings should not make any reference to traditional architecture. Modernism had cut all ties with the past. A new aesthetic was needed, one that represented the new epoch, the age of the machine. At the same time, it also provided affordable housing for the common man.
The International Style was particularly well suited to large metropolitan apartments and office towers. On the whole, Modernism was never really accepted by the public, it was more appreciated by big businesses and governments.
From the mid 60s (Postmodern Architecture), there was a shift towards interest in historical styles and the preservation of older buildings. This lead to the renovation of many older landmark buildings and to a tendency to resist new architecture that seemed to threaten the scale or stylistic integrity of existing structures. In general it can be said that the Postmodernists value individuality, intimacy, complexity, and occasionally even humour.
The inflexible, confrontational approach of modernism has been replaced by a more inclusive sense of the architectural heritage that acknowledges and seeks to preserve the very finest achievements of every period.

housepursuits.co.uk. 2003. Architectural Styles. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.housepursuits.co.uk/architectural.html. [Accessed 10 February 15].

February 2015

© 2018 dRAW Architecture. All Rights Reserved.