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The Traditional Architectural Style in the Early 19th Century, in Great Britain

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In this essay I am aim to explore Pugin’s dissent from tradition through his ideas, inspiration, and his most important works and their meaning. To dissent from tradition is to defy a stultifying tradition or convention, which leads to new, daring styles (Richardson, McKellar, Woods, 2008, p.109). The ‘traditional’ architectural style in the early 19th Century, in Great Britain was classicism, inspired by ancient Greece and associated with democracy as well as with the French revolution (Richardson, McKellar, Woods, 2008, p. 112). Pugin, called this classical style ‘the new square style’ (Figure 4.7, in Richardson, McKellar, Woods, 2008, p.123) and argued that it lacked authenticity of Great Britain (Richardson, McKellar, Woods, 2008, p. 109). In attempting to establish what would convey the cultural, national and religious character of Great Britain, Pugin turned to Gothicism, the style that existed in the country prior to the Protestant Reformation. He believed that a revival of the Gothic style would be ‘a return to a much better past’, to re-establish the Roman Catholic Church and a style that was indigenous to the Northern Europe (ibid).

Pugin did not dissent from the tradition in its usual meaning. He was not doing anything particularly new. He did not even consider himself to be a dissenter (Richardson, McKellar, Woods, 2008, p. 131). He saw himself as a traditionalist trying to revive the lost but national style which had been overshadowed by the dissent of neo-classicists (ibid). However I will consider Pugin to be a dissenter in its broad meaning as he was bringing back the ‘new’ gothic style, also known as neo-gothic style. Additionally, he believed that there was a strong correlation between the environment and the...

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... a classic body’ (Richardson, McKellar, Woods, 2008, p. 116). The palace is symmetrical and a strict structure, both of which are typical of the classic style. At the same time, however, the inside of the palace is decorated with paintings and sculptures in Gothic style thus forming a collaboration of the two styles. As he was not the chief architect of the building he probably didn’t get enough recognition for his work and we can only guess what the palace might have looked like if Pugin would have been in charge on his own. Pugin was responsible for the design of the Big Ben, which remains one of the most distinctive British symbols to this day (Richardson, McKellar, Woods, 2008, p. 114).

In conclusion, Pugin was a primary figure in the revival of medieval traditions and dissented from classicism in style and Protestantism in religion. He had started a new era.
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