The foreign architectural book society and architectural elitism

Horton, Ian Peter (2000). The foreign architectural book society and architectural elitism. PhD thesis The Open University.



This study investigates the Foreign Architectural Book Society [F. A. B. S. ] and its members from its foundation in 1859 through to the 1930s. Particular attention is given to the second generation of F. A. B. S. members, active between 1890 and 1920, who shared scholarly interests apparent in the architectural values they promoted in publications and their own buildings. In this period these F. A. B. S. members also occupied positions of power within the profession and influenced their contemporaries by encoding Beaux-Arts values in a reformed architectural education system. These developments are analysed using certain aspects of elite theory: this highlights the protectionist aspects of this education system and explains the survival into the 1930s of architectural values promoted by F. A. B. S. members.

The F. A. B. S. was founded with the intention of internally circulating foreign architectural books and this study examines how the society operated. The functioning of the F. A. B. S is analysed in relation to other societies its members joined, establishing their high social standing and a network of scholarly organisations through which architectural values were formed.

An analysis of publications and buildings by the second generation of F. A. B. S. members reveals the fact that they promoted two architectural styles, Neo-Wrenaissance and Monumental Classicism. It is argued that Wren's influence was central to the formation of the values embodied in these styles. In the case of the Neo- Wrenaissance it is shown that this is a more appropriate term to describe works usually noted as examples of Neo-Georgian architecture. When examining Monumental Classicism it is noted that F. A. B. S. members used Beaux-Arts compositional devices, as encoded in architectural education, but promoted it as a national style by invoking the example of Wren.

In conclusion it was argued that F. A. B. S. members encoded these stylistic values in the reformed architectural education system and this partially explains how the outmoded values of the Neo- Wrenaissance and Monumental Classicism managed to survive as valid stylistic options until the end of the 1930s.

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