connexion with ordinary street architecture. It is significant of the increased attention accorded to street architecture, that the most important architectural event in England at the very close of the 19th century, was the outlay of £2000 by the London County Council, in fees to eight architects for designs for the front of the proposed new streets of Kingsway and Aldwych. The idea was to treat these streets as comprehensive architectural designs with a certain unity of effect. Unfortunately this idea was abandoned for merely commercial reasons, it being feared that there would be a difficulty in letting the sites if tenants were required to conform their frontages to a general design. In the case of Aldwych, which is a crescent street, this decision was fatal. A crescent loses all its effect unless treated as a complete and symmetrical architectural design.
Fig. 107.—House in Buckingham Gate, London. (R. Blomfield.)
The competition for the Queen Victoria Memorial, consisting of a processional road from Whitehall to Buckingham Palace, culminating in a sculptural trophy in front of the palace, attracted a great deal of attention in 1901. Of the five invited competitors—Sir Aston Webb (b. 1849), T. G. Jackson, Ernest George (b. 1839), Sir Thomas Drew (b. 1838), and Sir Rowand Anderson (b. 1834) the two latter representing Ireland and Scotland respectively,—Sir Aston Webb’s design was selected, and unquestionably showed the best and most effective manner of laying out the road, as well as a very pleasing architectural treatment of the semicircular forecourt in front of the palace, with pavilions and fountain-basins symmetrically spaced; but some of this was subsequently sacrificed on grounds of economy. The building, a triumphal arch flanked by pavilions, forming the entry to the processional road from Whitehall, is a dignified design.
Fig. 108.—House in
In France, still the leading artistic nation of the world, the art of architecture has been in a most flourishing and most active state in the most recent period. It is true that there is not the same variety as in modern English Recent French architecture. architecture, nor have there been the same discussions and experiments in regard to the true aim and course of architecture which have excited so much interest in England; because the French architects, unlike the English, know exactly what they want. They have a “school” of architecture; they adhere to the scholastic or academic theory of architecture as an art founded on the study of classic models; and on this basis their architects receive the most thorough training of any in the world. This predominance of the academic theory deprives their architecture, no doubt, of a good deal of the element of variety and picturesqueness; a French architect pur sang, in fact, never attempts the picturesque, unless in a country residence, and then the results are such that one wishes the attempt had not been made. But, on the other hand, modern French architecture at its best has a dignity and style about it which no other nation at present reaches, and which goes far to atone for a certain degree of sameness and repetition in its motives; and living under a government which recognizes the importance of national architecture, and is willing to spend public money liberally on it (with the full approbation of its public), the French architects have opportunities which English ones but seldom enjoy—the predominant aim with a British government being to see how little they can spend on a public building. The two great Paris exhibitions of 1889 and 1900 may be regarded as important events in connexion with architecture, for even the temporary buildings erected for them showed an amount of architectural interest and originality which could be met with nowhere else, and which in each case left its mark behind it, though with a difference; for while in the 1889 exhibition the main object was to treat temporary structures—iron and concrete and terra-cotta—in an undisguised but artistic manner, in those of the 1900 exhibition the effort was to create an architectural coup d’œil of apparently monumental structures of which the actual construction was disguised. In spite of some eccentricities the amount of invention and originality shown in these temporary buildings was most remarkable; but fortunately the exhibition left something more permanent behind it in the shape of the two art-palaces and the new bridge over the Seine. The two palaces are triumphs of modern classic architecture; the larger one (by MM. Thomas, Louvet and Deglane) is to some extent spoiled by the apparently unavoidable glass roof, the smaller one, by M. Girault, escapes this drawback, and, still more refined than its greater opposite, is one of the most beautiful buildings of modern times; the central portion is shown in Plate XIV., fig. 130. The architectural pylons, with their accompanying sculpture, which flank the entries to the bridge, are worthy of the best period of French Renaissance. Thus much, at least, has the 1900 exhibition done for architecture.