Study day on decorative iron and Victorian architecture

Saturday 24 March 2012 — Book here

10am to 5.30pm. Art Workers’ Guild, 6 Queen Square, London, WC1N 3AT.

A study day organised by me (Dr Paul Dobraszczyk) exploring the development of decorative cast iron in Victorian architecture.

Victorian architects and theorists made a clear distinction between ‘building’ and ‘architecture’: for them, a building became architecture only when historical references were invoked. The development of new constructive materials, in particular cast iron, directly challenged this perceived distinction. A new material possessed no history: how, therefore, could it be architectural?

Dragons in the Kirkgate Market Hall, Leeds, 1901-04

The development of decorative cast iron in architecture – the subject of this study day – was seen as a solution to this problem, and it flourished in the second half of the nineteenth century when it was applied in an astonishing variety of contexts: street furniture, exhibition buildings, seaside architecture, railway stations, industrial buildings, glasshouses, museums, market halls and arcades. it was a time when some architects, engineers and theorists believed that the fusion of iron and historical and natural motifs would both enact a reconciliation of art and technology and also create a new, modern architectural language.

'Birdcage' bandstand, Brighton, 1883

Despite much new research on the structural use of iron in this period, its decorative use in britain has received no significant attention from historians since the early 1960s, mainly as a consequence of its condemnation by influential champions of architectural modernism. in the light of the waning of modernism’s dominance and a questioning of its nineteenth-century origins, it is high time for a reassessment of this rich but neglected subject.

Tracery, Paddington railway station, 1854

Talks include:

Iron and its Critics Dr Paul Dobraszczyk, University of Manchester

Iron and the Railways Dr Steven Brindle, English Heritage

Seaside Architecture and Iron Professor Fred Gray, Sussex University

Scottish Ironwork David Mitchell, Historic Scotland

Iron and Victorian Shopping Dr Paul Dobraszczyk

Exporting Iron Buildings Jonathan Clarke, English Heritage

Conservation of Ornamental Iron Ali Davey, Historic Scotland

To book your place go here and download the booking form.

Water fountain, Glasgow Green, 1893

7 thoughts on “Study day on decorative iron and Victorian architecture

    • Thanks for this link. Bandstands are one of my research subjects – any idea where they might originate from? Pleasure gardens? China?

    • Thanks for the encouraging comment, Rosa. I think some architects embraced cast iron, but many more thought it vulgar, precisely because it was so much cheaper to reproduce than other materials.

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