Building the Georgian City

James Ayres

Publicaton Date
May 1998
Standard Number
Yale University Press
302 pages

Georgian architecture had its roots in the Great Fire of London in 1666. Out of that disaster grew the need for rapid redevelopment, which was accomplished through standardization and the relaxation of restrictive practices in the building trades. This book investigates the decline in crafted buildings of the traditional client economies and the introduction of mass produced components that characterized an emerging consumerism. It is an approach that offers fresh insights into our architectural heritage by focusing on the traditions and innovations in the building methods of the time—the construction processes, the role of the building craftsmen, and the tools and materials they used.

James Ayres describes how builders in London developed the English terraced house and town-centered building systems that influenced the architecture of Bath, Edinburgh, Dublin, and distant Philadelphia. He takes us through the building processes craft by craft, from the work of the surveyors and laborers who established the foundations to the joiners and painters who finished the interiors. Ayres outlines the ways in which forms do not only follow functions but are also conditioned by materials and methods. He describes how, with the burgeoning industrialization of the second half of the eighteenth century, a separation emerged between making and designing, a division that led to the decline of the craftsman as designer. This led to a shift in power, a move from the empirical understanding of those involved in the processes of making to the theoretically based activities of architects.