IStructE - Craftsmen and the building revolution of the seventeenth century

5th December 2023 6:00 pm

In architectural history the seventeenth century, in the British Isles and elsewhere in Europe, is usually interpreted primarily in terms of the decline of traditional vernacular styles and their replacement by Classical architecture, based on Italian texts like those of Serlio and Palladio. This top-down, style-led approach, which privileges a small minority of famous buildings and architects, is highly misleading.

Steven Brindle argues that the seventeenth-century building revolution happened from the bottom up - as technical factors like brick construction, coal heating and changes in roof and window design meshed with social and economic factors, to change the way buildings were conceived and made. These factors allowed houses to be designed in accordance with Classical principles - but would have been more important to the clients and craftsmen in themselves. This gradual revolution was brought about by craftsmen, in collaboration with each other and in consultation with their clients. By 1700, the dawn of modernity is discernible in the resulting architecture, in the terrace houses, compact plans, sash windows, hipped roofs, fireplaces and panelled interiors. Architects and engineers were the ultimate heirs to this new culture of building, but they did not create it.

Listed in Other Institutions' Events

IStructE - Craftsmen and the building revolution of the seventeenth century

5th December 2023 6:00 pm


In architectural history the seventeenth century, in the British Isles and elsewhere in Europe, is usually interpreted primarily in terms of the decline of traditional vernacular styles and their replacement by Classical architecture, based on Italian texts like those of Serlio and Palladio. This top-down, style-led approach, which privileges a small minority of famous buildings and architects, is highly misleading.

Steven Brindle argues that the seventeenth-century building revolution happened from the bottom up - as technical factors like brick construction, coal heating and changes in roof and window design meshed with social and economic factors, to change the way buildings were conceived and made. These factors allowed houses to be designed in accordance with Classical principles - but would have been more important to the clients and craftsmen in themselves. This gradual revolution was brought about by craftsmen, in collaboration with each other and in consultation with their clients. By 1700, the dawn of modernity is discernible in the resulting architecture, in the terrace houses, compact plans, sash windows, hipped roofs, fireplaces and panelled interiors. Architects and engineers were the ultimate heirs to this new culture of building, but they did not create it.

Reasons to attend

  • Understand a new interpretation of the seventeenth century - a transformative period in British architecture
  • Challenge old-fashioned art-historical explanations, which focus on famous architects
  • Discover a view point that puts craftspeople and clients at the centre of the picture

Intended for

The lecture is open to anyone and may be of particular interest to:

  • Anyone interested in architectural history in the British Isles
  • Professionals who specialise in the care of seventeenth and eighteenth-century buildings.

Listed in Other Institutions' Events

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