Comparing Two Prominent Nineteenth Century Architects: John Soane and Gottfried Semper

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John Soane (1753 – 1837), is one of the most original English architects. Soane’s personal style is superficially Neo-Classical, but with his interest in death and ruins Soane was also very much at the forefront of the picturesque design. Whilst Gottfried Semper (1803 -79), a German architect, took up Neo-Renaissance design as well as a belief that in the expression of the function of a building in its exterior, including any decorative. This paper will concentrate upon examine the difference and similarities of those two prominent architects in the 19th century. More specifically arguing that both architects are vastly different in employing revivalism in their work and thus indicates the values and idea is of each nation is also different. This will be done through examine the education path they went through, their idea of primitivism and classical architecture as well as how some of their major architectural work such as Dulwich picture gallery, Bank of England for Soane and Dresden Art Gallery, Art History Museum and Dresden Opera House for Semper to reflect their design style.

Soane and Semper underwent dissimilar educational path in becoming architects. Soane become an apprentice of architect George Dance at the age of fifteen. Three years later he was accepted into the Royal Academy in London to be trained as a classical architect. Like many others, Soane partake in the Grand Tour and was able study, draw and measure monumental buildings first hand. Soane began his architectural career after his return to England. Many of his early design such as the Dairy, Hammels Park in figure 1 demonstrate exploration of classical themes he witnessed during the Grand Tour. As we will see later in Soane’s design. He learns from anti...

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...oane express architecture in the interdependence of form structure, and light in buildings such as Lincoln Fields Inns. His ability to abstract the classical architectural element and modify with his own style made him a versatile and imaginative designer in the history of English architecture. Semper on the other hand is dominated architectural theories to much greater extend than Soane did within their cultural and national context. Mallgrave claims that “it is impossible to understand the impulse of German modernism at the turn of the century without recourse to his idea.” 3 In a sense Samper renewal architecture in the 19th century from the bottom up, that is through reexamining the history and theory based on new ideology and observation of historical architectural. As a result, the use of decoration and polychromy is apparent in much modern architecture.

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