God's Architect: Pugin and the Building of Romantic Britain

Front Cover
Penguin Adult, 2008 - Architecture - 601 pages
2 Reviews

Pugin was one of Britain s greatest architects and his short career one of the most dramatic in architectural history. Born in 1812, the son of the soi-disant Comte de Pugin, at 15 Pugin was working for King George IV at Windsor Castle. By the time he was 21 he had been shipwrecked, bankrupted and widowed. Nineteen years later he died, insane and disillusioned, having changed the face and the mind of British architecture.

Pugin s bohemian early career as an antique dealer and scenery designer at Covent Garden came to a sudden end with a series of devastating bereavements, including the loss of his first wife in childbirth. In the aftermath he formed a vision of Gothic architecture that was both romantic and deeply religious. He became a Catholic and in 1836 published Contrasts, the first architectural manifesto. It called on the 19th century to reform its cities if it wanted to save its soul.

Once launched, Pugin s career was torrential. Before he was 30 he had designed 22 churches, three cathedrals, half a dozen extraordinary houses and a Cistercian monastery. For eight years he worked with Charles Barry on the Palace of Westminster creating its sumptuous interiors, the House of Lords and the clock Big Ben that became one of Britain s most famous landmarks. He was the first architect-designer to cater for the middle-classes, producing everything from plant pots to wallpaper and early flat-pack furniture.

God s Architect is the first full modern biography of this extraordinary figure. It draws on thousands of unpublished letters and drawings to recreate his life and work as architect, propagandist and romantic artist as well as the turbulent story of his three marriages, the bitterness of his last years and his sudden death at 40. It is the debut of a remarkable historian and biographer.

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Review: God's Architect: Pugin and the Building of Romantic Britain

User Review  - Diane - Goodreads

I had expected this book to focus on Pugin's religious and social vision as an architect, but this was more of a straight biography. Interesting and enlightening in places, the book focused too extensively on his life to the exclusion of his vision. Read full review

Review: God's Architect: Pugin and the Building of Romantic Britain

User Review  - Sarah - Goodreads

Yes it is possible to laugh out loud at a biography of a Victorian architect who was linked with the Oxford Movement. Wonderful. Moving. And very interesting. Read full review

About the author (2008)

Rosemary Hill is a writer and historian and a trustee of the Victorian Society. She has published widely on 19th and 20th century cultural history and sits on the editorial board of the London Review of Books. From 2004-05 she was a Visiting Fellow at All Souls College, Oxford.

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