Posts Tagged ‘Architectural History’

St George’s Quay and Freeman’s Pools, Lancaster

Lune Mills, St George's Quay

In a secluded part of Lancaster lies St Georges Quay. The docks were built in 1750, when the city was a hub for shipping imports and exports. Boats involved in the Slave Trade would bring raw materials, such as sugar, cotton, rum and mahogany, leaving with furniture and manufactured goods.

When shipping declined, St Georges Quay became home to Lancaster’s linoleum business. In the 1840s, James Williamson (senior) established a successful coated fabric business. His son, James Williamson (junior), vastly expanded the company using a  site that had been a former shipyard. This ‘mammoth works on the banks of the Lune’ concentrated on coated fabric products for the low-end consumer. Cork linoleum began production in 1887. An expanded mill, covering 21 acres, housed processes for embossing, rolling, measuring, block printing and dyeing. Cork was brought to Heysham from Spain and Portugal, then transferred to the factory via rail. In 1894, the firm employed 2500 men. Lord Ashton commissioned several philanthropic works, including the Queen Victoria Monument (Dalton Square), Lancaster Town Hall, and Williamson Park, dominated by the Ashton Memorial. Since Ashton’s death (1930), the lino business fell into decline. Production ended around 1999, leaving a derelict site that has been prone to vandalism.

Freeman's Pools, The Lune Estuary Path

Freeman’s Pools are part of flood protection measures for St George’s Quay. The six hectare site provided clay for constructing the flood embankments. Afterwards, landscaping created a series of inter-connecting lakes. Completed in 2008, Freeman’s Pools are host to a manner of invertebrates, mammals and wading birds. These include frogs, water voles, great crested newts, Terns and Lapwings. Planting the lake margins with wildflowers and wet grassland has increased biodiversity. Shallow excavations known as scrapes form habitats for the invertebrates. Aquatics, such as reeds and rushes, provide cover. Over 8000 trees have been planted. The Black Poplar is an especially rare tree, with only around 7000 left in the UK. For this reason, the area has been designated a County Biological Heritage Site. Freeman’s Pools is on the Lune Estuary Path, linking Lancaster with Glasson Dock.


Gresgarth Hall, nr Caton

August 3, 2011 1 comment

Gresgarth Gardens, nr Caton, Lancashire

Gresgarth Hall and Gardens fuses the natural landscape of a river valley, with a stately home and formal gardens. The house is perched on a meander of Artle Beck, near the Lancashire town of Caton. Although there may have been a pele tower on the present site since the early fourteenth century, the house has been remodelled several times. A large bay window, overlooking the river terrace and subsequent Gothic Revival style enlargements, were later additions. In the 1800s, Thomas Edmondson landscaped the grounds in the Romantic style. The present owners are Mark and Arabella Lennox-Boyd, the latter being an award-winning landscape designer.

Ornamental Lake

Recent developments have involved planting the river terraces with Mediteranean plants, native to Arabella’s birth place in Italy. The lake was re-landscaped, creating the illusion of a river opening out to face the house. Circling the lake are several different areas of planting, including a kitchen garden and orchard. There are over 6000 varieties of trees and shrubs. Across the beck, the grounds open out into wildflowers and the surrounding countryside.

Together, the house, beck and gardens present a harmonious and picturesque landscape. Gresgarth Gardens opens on selective days. More information can be found at

Churches, Venice

San Giorgio Maggiore, Palladio

Venice has a rich tradition of ecclesiastical architecture. The dome of the nearest church is never far on the horizon. Ironically, some of the best buildings are outside the city limits, on the island of Giudecca.

Buoyed by his success elsewhere in the Veneto, Palladio moved to Venice in the mid-16th century. Two of his most famous commissions, San Giorgio Maggiore (1565) and Il Redentore (1576-77) are located here.

Il Redentore, Palladio

Palladio’s churches solve the problem of designing a facade to fit the basilican cross section. A taller temple front, with four Corinthian columns, covers the nave; whilst a low, wide pediment fits the aisles. The churches exploit the Renaissance dome, but do not result from central planning. Columns on the exterior are replicated indoors, with barrel vaults forming the structure. Palladio’s crisp, monumental churches contrast with more decorative architecture found inside Venice.

First published in 1570, the Quattro Libri dell’Architettura (four books of architecture) are Palladio’s legacy. The collection contains accurate drawings of Palladio’s own designs and reconstructions of Antiquity. The books have proved useful to many famous architects, including the British architect Inigo Jones, who used the Quattro Libri as his guide for a journey to Rome.

Santa Maria della Salute, Baldassare

Another remarkable Venetian church, Santa Maria della Salute (began 1631), sits at the southern end of the Grand Canal. To commemorate the Plague, Longheno Baldassare designed an octagonal church in the Baroque style. The central plan, in the form of a rotunda, depicts Mary as the Queen of Heaven. Views within the church are carefully controlled. Arches serve to frame vistas outdoors to the Grand Canal, whilst allowing passers-by to view the altar. Like the Teatro Olympico, lighting is designed to enhance the spectacle. Structural elements are picked out in grey stone, contrasting with the white-washed walls behind. Externally, the facade is decorated with elaborate scrolls. Baldassare’s dome can been seen from many parts of Venice, contributing to the city’s picturesque skyline.

Santa Maria della Salute, from the Ponte dell'Accademia

The Teatro Olympico, Vicenza

The Teatro Olympico

Billed as the first permanent covered theatre of the Renaissance,
the Teatro Olympico forms a unique blend of architectural spectacle and drama.

In 1579, the Olympic Accademian society asked Palladio to create a
new theatre on the site of Vicenza’s former city prison. His response considers
Classical theatres, as described by the Latin writer Vitruvius, and his own
archaeological investigations. Presented in 1580, the design is constructed
from an ellipse, with sunken orchestra pit, and a grand loggia behind the
seating. The frons scenae (stage wall) marks new construction away from the
existing prison fabric, and frames remarkable perspective scenery. Above, the
auditorium ceiling is painted with sky.

For the inauguration in 1585, the Accademians chose to perform
Sophocles drama, Oedipus Rex. This was seen as the ultimate Greek drama to be
staged in a strongly classical setting. After the death of Palladio in 1580,
Vicenzo Scamozzi (1552-1616) stepped in to design the stage set. Resembling the
city of Thebes, the scenery fits into a 12 metre space behind the stage wall. A
sloped floor and buildings of diminishing scale mean that actors appear to retreat
down one of the three streets. The perspective illusion is enhanced by
positioning hidden lights in the wood and plaster scenery. In front, a
chequered marble floor allowed the director to accurately place characters. The
stage wall contains statues of the patrons who provided finance for the
project. It serves as the setting for a palace, with the foremost area of stage
replicating a city piazza.

On the 3rd March 1585, 3000 patrons attended the
inauguration. By all accounts it was a moving performance.

Villa La Rotunda, Vicenza

La Rotunda, Vicenza

One of the all time architectural greats has to be Palladio. A recent trip to the
Veneto region of Italy allowed me to see his work at first hand.

Andrea Palladio was born 1508, in the town of Padua. He originally trained as a stone
mason, before being sent to Vicenza, where he was mentored by Giangiorgio
Trissino. A two year stay in Rome allowed Palladio to collect accurate
information on the proportions of classical buildings, which he later explored
in his own work. Palladio was fascinated by Bramante, Raphael and classical
Rome. He also benefited from new translations of texts by Vitruvius and Alberti.

After winning a competition to remodel the Palazzo della Ragione, Vicenza, Palladio
built a steady career designing country villas. These grand estates were owned
by Venetian nobles, providing them with an additional income. Palladio had
already become skilled at incorporating agricultural functions such as livestock
stabling, hay storage and grain threshing into a single building. His designs are
often sited on a low hill, with a central living block and symmetrical end pavilions.
By adding Greek temple fronts to his villas, Palladio believed he was mimicking
Antiquity. In fact, he was doing something completely new. Harmonic ratios,
based on intervals in music, enabled Palladio to achieve mathematical
perfection between wall thickness, plan dimensions and room height.

The Villa Americo Capra (1566-70), known as La Rotonda, is perhaps the most famous
Palladian villa. Commissioned by a retired churchman, the villa is located on
the outskirts of Vicenza. The owner lived elsewhere, using the property for
agriculture and entertaining guests brought from the town. Palladio created a
square plan villa, with a large double-storey rotunda at the centre. Each face
has an identical portico, making the building appear the same on every side.
Internally, harmonic proportion and symmetry decide the layout and size of the
corner rooms on the main floor. Stucco and rich frescoes complete the interior.
To Palladio, pure geometric forms (such as the square and
circle), use of symmetry and proportions represented his idea of architectural

An Introduction of Sorts

Canal bridge in Venice

Canal bridge in Venice

Welcome to my blog. As an Architecture student, based at the University of Edinburgh, I am passionate about Architecture, its history, and the world of design in general. My mission is to inform and entertain, ranging from the web-surfing public to those in the profession. Thought provoking posts will offer a window on the ‘delight’ to be found in our built environment. Architectural design has a strong impact on our everyday lives, providing the setting for work, rest and play. Like the backing score for a successful film, we can often choose to ignore architecture completely, or only recognise when good design is absent. With this blog, I am asking you to spend more time exploring our built world, discovering its merits and history. The journey will include plenty of interest, facts, and some things to make you smile.