Tag Archives: Great Britain

Concrete Buildings for Landed Estates

Birch, John. Concrete Buildings for Landed Estates in Great Britain and Ireland. London: E. Stranford, 1881.

According to John Birch:

The object of this pamphlet is to stimulate the use of Portland Cement Concrete as a material for the building purposes on landed estates in Great Britain and Ireland, on the grounds of its applicability and economy, more especially where suitable materials are on the spot and labour plentiful. Having had considerable experience of its uses, I venture to recommend it, and beg to submit a few well-chosen and inexpensive designs for the consideration of those who may have occasion to erect such buildings and require to study economy. (preface, vii)

The accompanying designs are well worth a look for those interested in either concrete or nineteenth-century architecture. Birch’s drawings remain picturesque, employing elements such as half-timbering and rustication. If I had not known Birch was advocating for the use of concrete, I would not have guessed that it was the intended material for construction.

New Books at the Architecture & Planning Library: Identity and Interior Design

Interior design is based on expectations and aspirations of how the inhabitants of a space will live and behave.  In this way interior design not only reflects the lifestyle of the inhabitants, it can be used to project personality traits the inhabitants wish to convey. Several new books at the Architecture & Planning Library this week focus on the fascinating intersection of interior design with personal identity.

Biography, Identity and the Modern Interior edited by Anne Massey and Penny Sparke is a collection of essays that consider the historical insights that can be gleaned from investigating the lives of individuals, groups, and interiors. The authors use case studies to explore the history of the interior as a site in which everyday life is experienced and the ways in which architects and interior designers draw on personal and collective histories in their practice.


Bachelors of a Different Sort: Queer Aesthetics, Material Culture and the Modern Interior by John Potvin examines the ambivalent and uncomfortable position bachelors have held in society by considering the complicated relationships between the modern queer bachelor and interior design, material culture, and aesthetics in Britain between 1885 and 1957. The author discusses the interiors of Lord Ronald Gower, Alfred Taylor, Oscar Wilde, Charles Shannon and Charles Ricketts, Edward Perry Warren and John Marshall, Sir Cedric Morris and Arthur Lett-Haines, Noël Coward and Cecil Beaton.

Ron Arad: Another Twist in the Plot with text by Anatxu Zabalbeascoa is the catalog from a 2013 exhibition of the work of architect and designer Ron Arad, that includes photographs and sketches of some of his most iconic works as well as several mock-ups and architectural projects. Arad considers himself to be a self-taught designer with an approach to form and structure based on freedom from tradition and convention.  ‘The principle is that everything should be based on something that didn’t exist before’, says Arad.


*Click the title of any book in this post to link directly to the library catalog.

The Observer’s Book of British Architecture

John Penoyre and Michael Ryan. The Observer’s Book of British Architecture, written and illustrated by John Penoyre and Michael Ryan, describing and indexing the development of building in Britain from Saxon times to the present day. Foreword by F. R. S. Yorke. London: Frederick Warne & Co. LTD., 1951. The Special Collections edition was gifted by Howard Meyer, FAIA.

Architecture implies building beautifully and well. Great architecture can be profoundly moving, can stir us more deeply than any other of the visual arts, for it is a three-dimensional art into which the beholder may enter and of which he may feel himself an integral part. Architecture is not an application of beautiful detail to a building; to aspire to the name of architecture the building itself must not only be well built but must truly fulfill its purpose and at the same time delight the beholder (pg 9).

The Observer’s Book of British Architecture was designed as an easily carried reference book on British architecture from the Saxon Period to the twentieth century. According to the authors: Primarily, this is a reference book, designed specifically to give the observer the information he wants in a form easily remembered (pg 9). In order to aid the observer, Penoyre and Ryan reduced the built environment to generalized forms, color coded the architectural periods, arranged the works chronologically, and added helpful diagrams that identify architectural terms or building techniques. They also included a Visual Index: Its purpose is to group together certain features (doors, columns, etc.) in such a way that the observer, when faced with a building for identification, may note for himself its peculiar elements, compare them to the their equivalents or approximate equivalents in the Visual Index, and then refer to the text as indicated (pg 10). The last section of the book is a place for the observer to  make notes; however, Mr. Meyer did not record any.

As the series is intended  for the layman, the authors have greatly simplified the complexity of the building tradition in Britain. F. R. S. Yorke notes in his foreword: In this stimulating and extraordinarily well-balanced book Penoyre and Ryan have traced quite clearly- so clearly that I found it possible to understand the text without the diagrams- the development of English architecture from Saxon times, and have provided just enough background that the observer needs to help him follow, without confusion or bogging down in unnecessary detail, the development of building, planning, and technique through the centuries; and that should help, too, to get rid of some of the misgivings he may have about the architecture of today (pg 5). Despite the sweeping statements and the simplification, the images make the guide a handy text for those who need a quick reference while traveling around Britain while the diagrams are quite helpful for those who have not had a survey course. Moreover, the illustrations are delightful with their bold color blocking.

For more information regarding the publisher Frederick Warne, please visit Penguin Books. For the Observer’s Pocket Series, there is a Collector’s Society.