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Architectural and Scientific Principles in the Design of the Palace of Westminster

Schoenefeldt, Henrik (2016) Architectural and Scientific Principles in the Design of the Palace of Westminster. In: Brittain-Catlin, Timothy and Bressani, Martin and De maeyer, Jan, eds. Gothic Revival Worldwide A.W.N. Pugin’s Global Influence. KADOC Art Series . Leuven University Press, Leuven, Belgium, pp. 175-199. ISBN 978-94-6270-091-8.

Abstract

In The True Principles of Pointed or Christian Architecture, A.W.N. Pugin criticised the original competition entry for the Palace of Westminster for its classical character, but he also rejected the super cial or purely for- malist approach to the use of irregularity in Gothic Revival architecture, stressing that irregularly should always be a truthful outward of expression of internal arrangements or a building’s evolution. After 1840, however, the architectural form of the Palace was gradually modified to accommodate a stack ventilation system that had not been part of the early architectural scheme Pugin had criticised. Thee relationship between architectural form, composition and the functional requirements of the stack ventilation strategy became subject on extensive investigations, and the design development illuminates how this relationship manifested itself in the exterior of the Palace. Following the plans of the Scottish physician David Boswell Reid the existing architectural towers, such as the Clock and Victoria Towers, were converted into air supply shafts, while a third tower of equal architectural prominence was added for the extraction of air. Reid saw the Palace as an opportunity to resolve questions of ventilation using a rational scienti c design approach, which he had previously deployed in the design of mock debating chambers but in the actual Palace, architectural and scientific questions had to be addressed in an integrated way, involving collaborations between engineers, scientists and the architect. Difficulties with achieving this level of collaboration and increasing doubts about the system’s technical viability4 provided the impetus for adopting a fundamentally different ventilation strategy under Barry’s direc- tion. is not only significantly reduced the complexity of the design process, but for the second time, led to a transformation of the building’s architectural form. Remnants of the abandoned scheme, such as the Central Tower, were retained without fulfilling its original purpose, but a system of local ventilation turrets was gradually introduced between 1846 and 1854 to compensate for the loss of the Tower as a discharge. The Palace underwent a gradual architectural transformation in response to an evolving system of ventilation. Previous studies have focused on the ventilation as a technical issue, with- out investigating the relationship between architectural and technical inquiries during the design development. Based on a detailed study of the original project correspondence, sketches, architectural drawings, this chapter investigates how the architecture of the Palace was transformed in response to the evolving ventilation system. The archival evidence covered the involvement of Barry’s architectural practice in great detail, but unfortunately did not provide any insight into Pugin’s specific contribution to the develop- ment of the ventilation system. This chapter starts with the original competition scheme and how it was modified between 1840 and 1846 to accommodate Reid’s original plans. This is followed by an exploration ration of the development of a new strategy adopted a er 1846 under Barry’s direction. Major modifications implemented in 1854 by the engineer Goldsworthy Gurney represented the end of this intense negotiation process as the design remained largely unchanged until the 1880s. This is chapter also demonstrates that the study of technological and environmental aspects and its impact on the overall design process can yield a fundamentally new understanding of the making of architectural form in the Gothic Revival.

Item Type: Book section
Uncontrolled keywords: Houses of Parliament, Palace of Westminster, Palace of Westminster Restoration and Renewal Programme, House of Commons, House of Lords, David Boswell Reid, Charles Barry, Augustus Pugin, Politics, History of Environmental design, sustainability
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
T Technology > T Technology (General)
Divisions: Faculties > Humanities > Architecture
Depositing User: Henrik Schoenefeldt
Date Deposited: 27 Nov 2016 21:01 UTC
Last Modified: 29 May 2019 18:20 UTC
Resource URI: https://kar.kent.ac.uk/id/eprint/59156 (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
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