The Law Courts
The Architecture of George Edmund Street
- Winner, Alice Davis Hitchcock Award, Society of Architectural Historians
430 pp., 9 x 11 in,
- Published: November 7, 1984
This is the first book devoted exclusively to Street and his greatest work, the Royal Law Courts in the Strand.
George Edmund Street (1824-1881) was a leader of the High Victorian generation of British architects. A prolific and innovative artist, he also played an important role in the reshaping of architectural taste that occurred in England at mid century. This is the first book devoted exclusively to Street and his greatest work, the Royal Law Courts in the Strand. In The Law Courts, David Brownlee makes extensive use of the vast archives of the Public Record Office to document a monument that embodies both the professional controversies surrounding architectural theory and the personal conflicts of an architect caught between two generations of style. More than an examination of a single building, the book is also a history of political and legal reform in the middle of Queen Victoria's reign. In the course of describing the Law Courts in their urban and architectural context, Brownlee also discusses the nature of the bureaucracy that oversaw official patronage of the arts and the demands of clients whose interests often conflicted. He describes the competition in which Street attempted to unite the irregular vigor of Gothic with the quasi-classical symmetry and monumentality appropriate for a public building, the long series of revised designs which increasingly displayed the picturesque qualities of the new Queen Anne taste, and the actual construction of the Courts.
This book is volume 8 in the Architectural History Foundation Series.
Although it treats of one architect and one building, The Law Courts is in fact a valuable discussion of 19th-century English building, the building trades, and the architectural profession... Among its first achievements is its clear ordering of the complicated history of the program, competition, design, and construction of this huge undertaking. Brownlee's text is well-written and thorough... it will be required reading for architectural and other historians.
James F. O'Gorman, Grace Slack McNeil Professor of American Art, Wellesley College