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Romanesque Architecture speaks to what is Romanesque and define Romanesque. It appeared in both Europe and North America in the 1840s and was an eclectic movement as inspired by the writings of John Ruskin and by the architecture of German architect Karl Friedrich von Schinkel (1781 to 1841). One of the earliest example of this type of design is the first museum building for the Smithsonian Institute in Washington by architect James Renwick in 1846.
This revival had two distinct phases which may indeed be viewed as two different styles.
The first phase which appeared in the 1840s looked for inspiration to the medieval architecture of the eleventh and twelfth centuries and had much in common with Gothic architecture. Its principal features are square towers, hipped and gabled roofs, decorative medieval inspired detailing such as corbel tables under the eaves. The windows were round arched with wide voussoirs and the buildings tend to have a heavier appearance than the Gothic. This style was used for some religious architecture and institutions.
A more modest version became the standard model for commercial and industrial architecture as well as for modest public buildings. It was characterised by a repetitive use of round arched windows set in smooth brick walls articulated by thin pilaster strips. This functional interpretation of the style is not dissimilar to Italianate commercial architecture.
The second phase of the Romanesque emerged in the 1880s as influenced by American architect H.H. Richardson (1838 to 1886) who reinterpreted Romanesque architecture in a highly individual manner. This style is often called Richardson Romanesque featuring buildings with robust masonry structures with an originality that was new to nineteenth century architecture.
Characteristic features include walls of large rough faced masonry blocks, massive, round arched entrances incorporating short polished columns and prominent voussoirs set flush with the wall, groups of deeply set windows, asymmetrically positioned short circular towers with conical roofs, heavy stone stringcourses and oversized corbels. Despite their mass these buildings tend to be compact and sculptural in appearance and often incorporate sculpture, stained glass and other arts and crafts detailing.
In Canada the style was promoted by Thomas Fuller who after working in the United States became the chief architect of the Department of Public Works resulting in a number pf post offices and custom houses being built in this style.