Tag Archives: England

Friday Finds: Exeter Phoenix

Sharp, Thomas. Exeter Phoenix: A Plan for Rebuilding. London: Published for the Exeter City Council by the Architectural Press, 1946.

Sharp_ExeterPhoenixLast week I encountered Thomas Sharp through his work, Cathedral City: A Plan for Durham (1945). I discovered that Special Collections houses several more of his proposals for English cities, to include Exeter, Oxford, Salisbury, Chichester, and Taunton. As I am not a planner or historian of modern architecture, I am unfamiliar with Sharp and his legacy. K. M.  Stansfield attests to his influence:

He also produced The Anatomy of the Village (1946), which became a classic on the subject of village design, despite almost being suppressed by the ministry. In it Sharp for the first time consciously developed the concept of townscape, then almost unknown and still widely misunderstood, as a counterpart to landscape. It was a dramatic vision of the quality of urban space which he perfected, in outstanding analyses of historic towns, in his post-war plans—notably those for Durham, Oxford, Exeter, Salisbury, and Chichester, between 1943 and 1949. (Stansfield, “Sharp, Thomas Wilfred (1901–1978).”

As a medieval historian I connect with his approach to recognize the special character of each city and his desire to balance the needs of a modern city with its historic fabric, which was evident in his proposal for Exeter.  He writes in Exeter Phoenix:

The planner’s first approach to his task is to sum up the personality of the city which has been put under his care. A city has the same right as a human patient to be regarded as an individual requiring personal attention rather than abstract advice. The second is that abstract principles of town planning do not in themselves produce a good plan. The good plan is that which will fulfil the struggle of the place to be itself, which satisfies what a long time ago used to be called the Genius of the Place. (pg. 11)

Sharp was faced with the challenge of not simply modernizing the fabric of Exeter but also rebuilding parts of the city due to both “blight and blitz” (pg. 82, 87). This challenge prompted Sharp to pose the question: Restoration or renewal? (pg. 87). He argues for “sympathetic renewal” –

It is one thing to attempt to save, and adapt to modern use, buildings which have actually survived from the past: it is quite another thing deliberately to imitate those buildings in new work. Such imitation must inevitably fail. It must fail because buildings are made of the spirit of their time as well as as of brick and timber and stone: and the spirit of the past cannot be recaptured… To attempt to rebuild 20th-century Exeter with mediæval forms would be the work of a generation that is visually blind and spiritually half dead.

…All things point, then, to the necessity for observing an appropriateness of scale and pattern in the renewal of the historical city. The sympathetic treatment of the surviving old buildings requires it. Sound planning for modern conditions of living requires it. It is upon this concept of renewal, in a way that is sympathetic to but not imitative of the old city, that this present plan for the rebuilding of central Exeter is based. (pg. 87-89)

Stansfield, K. M. “Sharp, Thomas Wilfred (1901–1978),” rev. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press, 2004. Accessed 12 June 2015. http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/31673.

Friday Finds: Bungalows


This week I ended up in a section on Bungalows. I thought we might explore the diversity of examples and definitions provided by the various publications.  Starting with the definition provided by the Penguin, which defines bungalows thusly:

A detached, single-storey house in its own plot of land. The term first occurs in 1784 as an anglicization of the Hindu word ‘bangla‘ and was given to lightly constructed dwellings with verandas erected for English officials in mid-C19 Indian cantonments and hill stations. Later the term was used for similarly light, simply dwellings built as second homes in England and America. (pg. 77)

Harrison, Percival T. Bungalow Residences: A Handbook for All Interested in Building. London: Crosby Lockwood and Son, 1909.

Percival T. Harrison has a rather lengthy definition of bungalow. He too traces its origin back to India and like the Penguin’s definition allows for diversity. Harrison does, however, narrow the field at least in terms of the types of bungalows he intends to present:

No one would entertain for a moment the idea of erecting rows or even pairs of bungalows, because by so doing their principal charm, as well as their distinctive character, would be destroyed.

Bungalows costitute a distinct type of residence in themselves: they are erected for the most part at the seaside, or in the country in positions chosen for the quality of the air, or for the recreative facilities or other attractions, and it is an added pleasure if the site commands views of white cliff and restless sea, of verdure-clad hills or winding river, where, for a time at least, the rattle of the motor ‘bus may be forgotten, together with the many other obtrusive indications of the triumph of machinery, indispensable as such may be in these days of rush and hurry. (pg. 2-3)

Wilson, Henry L. The Bungalow Book: A Short Sketch of the Evolution of the Bungalow from its Primitive Crudeness to its Present State of Artistic Beauty and Cozy Convenience. 5th edition. Chicago: H. L. Wilson, 1910.

Henry L. Wilson provides a brief introduction to bungalows. He writes:

The Bungalow is a radical departure from the older styles of cottage, not only in outward appearance, but in inside arrangement. The straight, cold entrance hall and stiff, prim, usually darkened parlor have no place in it. Entrance is usually into a large living room- the room where the family gathers, and in which the visitor feels at once the warm, homelike hospitality. Everything in this room should suggest comfort and restfulness. The open fireplace and low, broad mantel, a cozy nook or corner, or a broad window seat, are all means to the desired end. Bookcases or shelves may be fitted into convenient places, and ceiling beams add an air of homely quaintness which never grows tiresome. (pg. 4)

The rest of the book is a catalog from which to purchase plans for your very own bungalow.

Saylor, Henry H. Bungalows: Their Design, Construction and Furnishing, with Suggestions also for Camps, Summer Homes and Cottages of Similar Character. New York: Robert M. McBride & Company, 1917.

Writing for an American audience, Henry H. Saylor attempts to define the characteristics of the bungalow in this country. Saylor argues that a bungalow must have a piazza and “at least one big fireplace in the living-room.” (pg. 11, 16-17) He argues further:

From the outside it is almost impossible to tell whether the building is a bungalow with dormers ventilating the upper part of its living-room or its attic, or whether it is a house. The final test, however, is in plan. Where the main sleeping-rooms are included on the first floor with the living-room, dining room and service quarters, the building is a bungalow. Where the sleeping-quarters are for the most part on the second floor, the building is a house instead. (pg. 45)

He identifies ten types of bungalows found in the U.S., to include: the Pasadena & Los Angeles type, the patio bungalow of Southern California, the Swiss Châlet, the Adirondack, the seacoast bungalow, and the Chicago type.

Phillips, R. Randall. The Book of Bungalows. 2nd edition. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1922.

Randall R. Phillips acknowledges as well that bungalows come in many forms and serve many purposes; however, he ties his examples to class:

The plan of the bungalow will necessarily vary a good deal, according to the particular site on which it is proposed to be built, the use to which it is to be put, and the number of occupants…. Similarly, as the precise definition of the word “bungalow” as a one-storey house would include both the country cottager’s dwelling and the lodge keeper’s house, we should here have quite another arrangement of plan. But my interpretation of the bungalow in this book is expressly limited to the needs of one class- that middle class upon whose shoulders every new burden is thrust. (pg. 9)

Hastings, Alan, ed. Week-End Houses, Cottages and Bungalows. With an Introduction by Hugh Casson. Westminster: The Architectural Press, 1939.

No precise definition is provided for bungalows. Rather, the introduction provides advice about building a properly designed weekend home, whether cottage, house or bungalow. Hugh Casson writes:

The book is intended for those who could not endure the murk and confinement of a mediæval cot, even if they could find one going cheaply, and for those who prefer a home simply and directly planned to fit in with the informal life of a week-end party. For them, the only solution is to build, and they will find the excitement well worth the inevitable trouble and delay. (pg. 8)

The rest of the book is arranged by type: houses & cottages, foreign examples, and bungalows. The examples, included by the editor, are recent constructions, designed by architects. The example below is classified as a bungalow.

The Book of Bungalows as Recommended by the F.H.A. Victory Housing National Defense Program, 32 Beautiful Designs. St. Paul, Minn.: Home Plan Book Co., c1941.

Like Henry L. Wilson’s book, this publication is also a catalog of plans for bungalows that was distributed by Amos D. Bridge’s Sons of Hazardville, Conn. The company sold lumber, building supplies, and agricultural implements. This catalog was actually the one that inspired me to write the post. The houses remind me very much of my grandparents’ house in the midwest, which I would never have classified as a bungalow. In fact “The Crosby” is nearly the exact plan of their house.

Are some of these examples more successful as bungalows than others, or align more closely to your idea of a bungalow? What do you think and why?

Fleming, John, Hugh Honour, and Nikolaus Pevsner. The Penguin Dictionary of Architecture and Landscape Architecture. 5th edition. London: Penguin, 1999.

Friday Finds: So Many Finds!

Since I have not been able to post the last two Fridays, I am over sharing today! There is no theme that connects my selections- just things that struck my fancy. As I have noted before, I rely on serendipity – I browse but rarely with a focused intention. I think it unlikely that I would have found these works starting with the catalog.

Berlepsch-Valendas, Hans Eduard von. Bauernhaus und Arbeiterwohnung in England: Eine Reisestudie von H. E. Berlepsch Valendas, B.D.A. Stuttgart: J. Engelhorn, [1907].

I was rather struck by graphic print on the cover. Berlepsch-Valendas documented the domestic architecture of Bournville and Port Sunlight, England near Birmingham and Liverpool, respectively. The text is written in German, so my ability to engage with it is limited. He includes photographs and plans of the towns. The second half of the work is the real treat. There are twenty plates with drawings documenting the architecture Berslepsch-Valendas encountered. The attention to detail is quite lovely.

Thomas, Rose Haig. Stone Gardens with Practical Hints on the Paving and Planting of Them; Together with Thirteen Original Designs and a Plan of the Vestal Virgin’s Atrium in Rome. London: Simpkin, Marshall, Hamilton, Kent and Co., LTD., 1905.

Again the cover caught my eye. I rather liked the graphic representations of the gardens, both on the cover and the plates within, and endpapers.

Rose Haig Thomas writes:

A FLAT stone garden costs not a little trouble and, if far from stone quarries, not a little money to make. But the reward is great, for it is a means of growing many tiny plants that would be hidden in the herbaceous border, and lost in a rock garden. In the stone garden each plant grows by itself, and thus its ways and habit of growth can be so much better observed, for there one may wander and enjoy the companionship of plants at those seasons of the year when in our damp climate the lawn is objectionable with the mists and heavy dews of autumn and winter.  (pg. 7)

Prokop, August. Über Österreichische Alpen-Hotels, mit Besonderer Berücksichtigung Tirol’s. Wien, Im Commissionsverlag von Spielhagen & Schurich,1897.

Again the text is written in German; however, the documentation of the hotels and the natural landscape is quite useful. Prokop included drawings- sections, elevations, plans, details, and perspectives- and photographs, both of the structures and the dramatic views of the mountains. The work would be quite useful for those interested in nineteenth-century hotels. Many of the hotels are of the rustic lodge variety; however, some are more classically inspired.

[Scrapbook of Reviews, Prospectuses, and Other Material Related to Garner and Stratton’s Domestic Architecture of England during the Tudor Period.] England.

The title of this book struck me initially- which on the spine is just Tudor Domestic Architecture Reviews- because I have been watching Wolf Hall on PBS. It was not at all what I was expecting. It is truly a scrapbook of items related to The Domestic Architecture of England during the Tudor Period; Illustrated in a Series of Photographs & Measured Drawings of Country Mansions, Manor Houses and Smaller Buildings with Historical and Descriptive Text by Thomas Garner and Arthur Stratton.

Someone carefully collected the press releases and reviews of the publication and pasted them into this book. He hand wrote page numbers and a table of contents and marked in pencil sections of the reviews, which primarily date from 1908-1912. In an inside pocket, the collector stashed a few other related items, including a handmade mock-up of the title page. There is no record of the creator of the scrapbook.

Curious about the publication itself, I found a two volume set published in 1911. Our copy came to us with the Ayres and Ayres archive.  On the inside cover, a couple of quick sketches were drawn, which is always a favorite find.

Buildings in the Countryside, Durham

County Council of Durham [England]. Buildings in the Countryside: Notes for the Guidance of Developers. 1952.

This might be one of the best introductions, I have read recently:

If we are are justified in refusing to accept the obviously bad architecture we are certainly not justified in hampering architectural progress in any way. If our forebears had taken a negative attitude we might still be building in the Gothic or even Norman styles.

To sum up.

It is impossible to be dogmatic about design. The suggestions in this booklet are not expected or intended to be slavishly copied; rather should they be used as a guide. 

Wherever possible an architect should be employed to design buildings. This booklet is no substitute for his services. (pgs. 2-3)

William A. Geenty, County Planning Officer, issued this booklet arising from a need to address the destruction of the countryside by poorly designed buildings and as an extension of the County Development Plan. The advice is intended to meet “the short-term…problems of the siting and design of buildings in the landscape, village planning, layouts, densities, colliery waste heaps, quarry workings and the like.”  (Foreword)

The council offers a wide range of advice to include village planning, the consideration of landscape, and the design of houses. For example, designers should return to the planning principles of pre-industrial villages in order to achieve successful siting within the landscape. Accordingly to Geenty, “These villages are invariably well sited in relation to the land masses and natural features; they belong to the landscape and enhance its interest.” (pg. 8)  He also advises that skylines be taken into consideration when siting a single or group of houses in the open landscape. He argues that the skyline is often neglected, which results in “a spotty broken effect”. (pg. 17) Finally, extensive discussion is given to the design of houses appropriate for the countryside, to include basic principles such as horizontal masses over vertical or the placement of doors and windows; diagrams and photos of good and bad design; and actual designs submitted to the planning authority with their amendments.

Thomas Tresham

J. Alfred Gotch. A Complete Account, illustrated by measured drawings, of the buildings erected in Northamptonshire, by Sir Thomas Tresham, between the years 1575 and 1605. Together with many particulars concerning the Tresham family and their home at Rushton. Northampton: Taylor & son, 1883.

I first encountered Thomas Tresham (1543-1605) in the second half of the architectural survey course and sadly have not since crossed his path until today. Tresham’s Triangular Lodge is one of those delightfully enigmatic buildings that remains with you, so I was most excited to discover two other buildings associated with Thomas Tresham– Rothwell Market House and Lyveden New Building.

J. Alfred Gotch’s sought both to document the three structures and to study them as an architectural unit under the patronage of Thomas Tresham. He concludes that Triangular Lodge at Rushton Hall, Rothwell Market House, and Lyveden New Building should be attributed to the architect John Thorpe, who designed three houses in Northamptonshire during this period. He writes:

It is highly probable that the leading ideas, the curious emblems, the legends, and the insoluble enigmas were supplied by Tresham, being wrought into practicable form by Thorpe; all the buildings have clearly been worked out by an expert, and are free from the makeshifts and crude errors of the amateur. (pg 44)

While Gotch identifies the Triangular Lodge as a garden folly, he also argues that the symbolism contained within and the inscriptions upon the building are a reflection of Tresham’s religious beliefs. Tresham was a devout Catholic under the rule of Queen Elizabeth I, and the folly is an expression of the Trinity (pg 30). The building is a study of three.  It is an equilateral triangle with three floors, while the various details are groupings of three or multiples of three. Over the doorway the inscription reads, TRES. TESTIMONIVM. DANT., which Gotch translates as There are three that bear record. (pg 23) Gotch leaves us with this final thought regarding the Triangular Lodge:

…the Triangular Lodge is now and always must have been of very little practical use….It must always have been a “Folly;” an elegant, quaint, and expensive freak of its author; and therein lies its chief significance to us- in the light it throws on the manners and modes of the thought of the age in which it was built. (30)

Modern British Domestic Architecture and Decoration

Charles Holme, ed. Modern British Domestic Architecture and Decoration. London: Offices of the Studio, 1901.

At the turn of the twentieth century, Charles Holme issued a call for a new architecture for the homes of Britain. He collected a series of essays on architecture, furniture, metal-work, stained glass, and decoration & embroidery. The treatise is highly illustrated with works by the Mackintoshes, the McNairs, and M. H. Baillie Scott- leaders in the Scottish Arts & Crafts Movement- among other architects and designers.

Edward S. Prior (1855-1932), architect & writer, wrote the essay  on domestic architecture, “Upon House-Building in the Twentieth Century,” for the publication, which was influenced by theories of the Arts & Crafts Movement. Like Holme, he issued a challenge to the architects of the twentieth century to abandon the adoration of the three great gods, Science, Commerce and Nature of the nineteenth century (pg. 10). He argues that through Science and Archaeology, architects reproduced the works of the past, latching onto various styles.  Prior suggests: A better understanding of his worth [Science] to us would cause him to be appreciated as the science of construction, not as the knowledge of other people’s ornament (10-11). Commerce too  had a detrimental effect on architecture. Houses were designed with profit as the driving force, loosing all individuality. The bottom line, Prior argues, has also affected the quality of workmanship and material. He writes: We have to take not only what does not suit us, but what is not the real thing at all- fatty compounds for butter, glucose for sugar, chemicals for beer: and just as certainly the sham house for the real building, its style a counterfeit, its construction a salable make-believe, its carved wood a pressing from machinery, its panelling linoleum, its plaster some pulp or other, its metal work a composition, its painted glass only paper- everything charmingly commercial and charmingly cheap (11-12). Finally, Prior is critical of the nineteenth century’s relationship with Nature. He proclaims: And to add insult to injury, we not only lay waste Nature’s palaces, but we talk glibly enough of taking her into our gardens, and to this end we set out puny landscapes in place of wide ones so rashly destroyed (12).

Prior hopes that the architects will reflect upon their relationship with the nineteenth century’s gods and overcome the challenges that such worship has imposed upon them. He concludes: And architects, delivered from the thralldom of design and required to provide neither orders nor styles, neither nooks nor symmetries, might be allowed the money for building with brains: that is to say, for a progressive experimental use of what science and commerce bring their hands, a controlling grasp of the new practices of construction, for the purposes not of champ construction but of good building. Thus alone may we cease to be purveyors of style. And when, at last, we shall have ceased to be artistic, perhaps we may grow, unselfconsciously, into artists (14).

Flats, Urban Houses and Cottage Homes

W. Shaw Sparrow, editor. Flats, Urban Houses and Cottage Homes: A Companion Volume to the British Home of Today. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1906.

The collection contains a series of articles by Frank T. Vertity, Walter Shaw Sparrow, Edwin T. Hall, and Gerald C. Horsley. The highly illustrative text offers advice for designing and planning flats as well as a comparison between English, French, and Viennese types. The final article is an extended advertisement, written by an “expert” from Waring’s (Waring & Gillow, Ltd.) – a department store in England- who discusses the best way to decorate and furnish a flat. According to Waring’s expert:

But I cannot refrain from repeating the warning given above against crowding massive pieces of furniture, suitable for a large rooms, into the lilliputian apartments of ordinary flats. This applies particularly to such articles as sideboards, bookcases, cabinets and wardrobes. The users of the rooms must have some place in which to move about. It is not desirable to have to step on the dining table in order to get from one side to the other. An 8-ft. sideboard in a 10-ft. square room suggests the imprisonment of an elephant in a mouse-trap. In the average flat everything has to be more or less on the diminutive scale. A room blocked up with oversized pieces of furniture is in many ways more uncomfortable than a room without any furniture at all. So, let this be your watchword- “Don’t overdo it.” Let your arrangements err, if at all, on the side of modesty. Don’t entertain your bosom friend with a noble sideboard which he is compelled to use a dining chair, because there is no room for him to sit anywhere else. Don’t force your lady visitors to sit on each other’s laps in the drawing room because the grand piano occupies four-fifths of the floor. (“How to Furnish a Flat,” pg. 6-7)

A House for the Suburbs

Thomas Morris. A House for the Suburbs; Socially and Architecturally Sketched. London: All Booksellers, 1860.

The spine of this book simply proclaimed, A House for the Suburbs., and drew my attention. I expected to open the cover and find mid-century modern; however, I discovered this:

According to Thomas Morris: Thanks to the modern Genius of Speed and the Science of Rail, a wholesome future is in store for us. (pg. 1) The ease and speed of traveling between London and its environs has made it possible to live outside the city and reap the benefits of suburban living- gardens and improved health. He describes the suburbs of London and moves on to a discussion of the social expectations of suburban life: picnics, dinner parties, and book club.

Morris than transitions into a discussion of the architectural history of houses. He proclaims:

Very distinct is modern society from that of former periods; very superior our condition in regard to the security of property and person; and altogether unprecedented our rapidity of location; -yet the character of our dwellings is, or ought to be, equally distinguishable from those of any previous age.

He concludes with a discussion on “The Suburban House exemplified,” which includes the topics of style, material, and spaces.

The spaces identified by letters represent the house while the numbered the places of work and farm.
The spaces identified by letters represent the house while the numbered the places of work and farm.