AWN Pugin, who was born in London on 1 March , was only 24 when he published Contrasts. It was the book that made his name, and. His position was well illustrated in the plates of Contrasts. In the second edition he Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin Education. Posts about Augustus Pugin Contrasts written by Rick Searle.

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It was the book that made his name, and was the first architectural manifesto.

Contrastsas its many critics were quick to point out, had little to say on these subjects. What Pugin offered his ccontrasts instead was an contratss social programme, one which redefined architecture as a moral force, imbued with political and religious meaning.

Published on the eve of the Victorian age, Pugin’s polemic was an early rehearsal of conntrasts theme that was to echo through the 19th century and return to haunt the 21st: Inthe year of the book’s publication, the question was still new.

Men and women had never lived together in such vast numbers before, and as industry developed and drew more workers from the country to the towns, so the mills and factories, warehouses, workhouses and slum terraces spread. A decade later the British began to understand what Schinkel had meant.

IDLE SPECULATIONS: Augustus Pugin: Contrasts and a Parallel

The intervening years had seen the first outbreaks of cholera and some of the worst civil unrest in their history. Pugin’s message was simple: His prescription was a characteristic mixture of the romantic and the pragmatic — a proposal which, at any other moment in history, would have seemed fantastic, but one which caught the brittle mood of the mids.

Contrasts argued for a revival of medieval, Gothic architecture, and with it a return to the faith and the social structures of the Middle Ages. Each plate took a single urban building type and compared the modern example with its 15th-century equivalent.

Thus, a picture of a late-Georgian inn, cobbled together inconveniently from a row of terraced houses and set behind sharp iron railings, sat next to one of the Angel Hotel in Grantham, with its welcoming bow windows and promising beer cellar.

Its neo-classical gateway, squeezed between houses, looked mean beside the mighty front of Christ Church Oxford. The drawings were all calculatedly unfair. But the cumulative rhetorical force was tremendous.

Pugin had struck at a moment when the architectural establishment was coming under critical scrutiny. The stucco-fronted neoclassicism of the Regency, pilloried in Contrastswas looking tired.


Increasingly, it seemed to represent an age of decadence and waste of public money.

John Nash, its most eminent exponent, had died the year before in disgrace, having been unable to account for the huge overspend on Buckingham Palace; a public enquiry had failed to establish the exact cost of George IV’s lavish refurbishment of Windsor Castle.

While Pugin was planning Contraststhis simmering resentment against a closed augusuts self-serving auyustus establishment came to a head late one October afternoon inwhen the Palace of Westminster caught fire. The blaze turned out to be the last great show of Georgian London, watched by a vast crowd, which included Pugin and Turner, who painted it.

As the Office of Works moved swiftly to bring in one of its architects for the rebuilding, public opinion rebelled.

Contrasts by Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin

As the Morning Herald put contrasst At the time, however, despite his claims to architectural omniscience, Pugin was little more than a draughtsman. One puin his more lucrative jobs had been to provide the decorative details for Barry’s winning Westminster design, and he was to return to work on the Palace from time to time for the rest of his life.

Over the years he designed some cpntrasts its most successful elements, including the interior of the House of Lords. Now, however, the success of Pugin’s manifesto launched him as an architect in his own right, and he set about rebuilding Britain as a Gothic Catholic Christendom. It was a Quixotic crusade, but one in which he came closer to success than might ever have been expected.

By the time Pugin was 30, he had built 22 churches, three cathedrals, three convents, half a dozen houses, several schools and a Cistercian monastery. Augustue carried the battle into the heart of the industrial cities, the ‘”inexhaustible mines of bad taste” at Birmingham and Sheffield, infested with “Greek buildings, smoking chimnies, radicals and dissenters”.

St Chad ‘s, his Birmingham church, puginn amid the squalor of the gunmakers’ quarter, became England’s first cathedral since Wren’s St Paul’s. Politically he might best be described as conservative radical. He wanted to reform society by returning it to a benign hierarchy, an augusths medievalism, in which each class could look upwards for support, and would accept responsibility for those below them.

It was the indifference of the modern city that appalled him. In he published a second edition of Contraststo which he added two new plates that developed the argument beyond individual buildings, to present a whole moral panorama.


Pugib showed “contrasted cities”, the other “contrasted residences for the poor”. In the first, the medieval city, with its graceful spires and safe, defensive walls, sat beside its modern equivalent, the walls broken down, the spires ruinous and the horizon dominated by kilns and factories. Contraats point was simple enough: The contrasted residences of the poor made a subtler case for the relationship between architecture and ideas.

Here Pugin compared a monastic foundation of the Middle Ages, where monks fed and clothed the needy, grew food in the gardens — and in the fullness of xugustus gave the dead a decent burial — with a panopticon workhouse where the poor were beaten, half starved and sent off after death for dissection.

Each structure was the built expression of a particular view of humanity: Again he hit home. The workhouses, created under the New Poor Law, troubled many Victorian consciences. To the rising generation of architects, these images acted as a call to arms.

George Gilbert Scott remembered being “awakened” by Pugin to the possibilities for architecture to deliver human dignity. Ten years later, at the Great Exhibition, Pugin was able to offer the public some answers to the questions that Contrasts had raised.

Augustus Pugin

To furnish his buildings he had designed a complete range of Gothic furnishingssacred, secular and domestic, and many of them available to order at relatively modest prices. Seen together in the Crystal Palace, his plain flat-pack tables, colourful dinner plates and ceramic garden seats, arranged beside stained glass and vestments, held out a vision of the good life in the modern city — one that combined God with hearth and home, and was deeply appealing to the mid-Victorian mind.

The Great Exhibition should have been Pugin’s moment of triumph, but by the time it opened he was fatally ill and disillusioned. He had been in some ways too influential for his own good.

Augustu a sad irony, the last design he ever made, in Januarywas destined to be his most famous. It was for the clock tower of the Palace of Westminster. Topics Art and design books. History books Architecture features. Order by newest confrasts recommendations. Show 25 25 50 All. Threads collapsed expanded unthreaded. Loading comments… Trouble loading?