History of Art



This course presents London as an architectural microcosm of the State. Through an overview of key historical moments and an examination of several public and ecclesiastical buildings, it will present London as a city in which public architecture was consciously and deliberately utilised and propagandized as a potent device through which the essential values of and core political vision for the State was communicated to its citizens, the wider British population and to the foreign eye. It will consider the means by which several key building projects were mediated and politicised, thereby being imbued with socio-political significance both to contemporary audiences and later architectural historians.

Given the long period covered by this course, it is not intended to be a comprehensive survey of London’s public architecture, but rather a selective case-study examination of a number of architectural projects from which wider issues of meaning can be discussed. In doing so, it will consider the contested means through which later architectural historians have attempted to ascribe meaning to the built environment and the relative value of such interpretational tools.

It will focus on several key moments in the history of the city during which public architecture was consciously utilised as a means of mediating the core values of the State including the establishment of the Stuart dynasty; the rebuilding of the City in the wake of the great fire of 1666; the Glorious Revolution and Hanoverian settlement; the industrial revolution; the rise of the British Empire; and the architectural response to destruction and societal upheaval in the wake of the Second World War. The course, taught primarily through onsite visits, is structured chronologically and thematically.

Providing a first-hand introduction to the varied public architecture of London across a wide chronological spectrum, the course aims to consider the capital’s architects as responsive to financial, political, societal and cultural shifts and to deliberate the various means by which architectural historians translate and ascribe meaning to those architectural responses. In doing so it will provide a sound knowledge of the development of London’s public architecture contextualised within contemporary socio-political and religious milieux and will encourage a critical approach to the work of later architectural historians.