Lutyens: The Metaphoric Castle
Peter Inskip


Peter Inskip

©Monica Pidgeon

I intend to restrict this talk to a consideration of a number of Lutyens' later country houses, on the whole built in the period 1900-1914. But the ideas that I wish to put forward are equally applicable to his work on other building types - palaces, churches, war memorials, and so forth. One of the fascinating things about buildings by Lutyens is that there seem to be so many different valid ways of approaching his work. It can be considered stylistically. He worked in a vernacular style, very much like his English free—school contemporaries such as Voysey, followed by an early eighteenth century domestic manner, and then a stripped form of classicism. Or they may be thought of through typological groupings — houses, churches, town planning schemes, war memorials and commercial works. Or a third way of considering his buildings would be to think of them geographically. Even if he started work in Surrey just south of London, his buildings spread not only through England but through the whole of the UK; he worked in France and Spain, South Africa, and of course in India where his chief building is the Vice-regal lodge at New Delhi. But there are projects in America and even in Russia. But the emphasis on all these groupings tends to be perceptual - the charm of the style or the clever treatment of an element such as a roof. But can you really explain Lutyens' architecture in this way? I don't think so.


Top: Fulbrook House, Surrey, 1897. Bottom: Middleton Park, Oxfordshire, 1938

©Peter Inskip

If you look at two houses, Fulbrook of 1897 and Middleton Park of 1938, does this show a stylistic progression from the English school vernacular to classicism? Not really, as Lutyens continued to practice in several styles throughout his life. There is no straight linear progression. When he was building Middleton, in fact, he was building a house at Wimbledon just outside London very similar to Fulbrook (constructed forty years earlier). Is he a chimera-like figure producing buildings of great diversity in their design, or can we find some conceptual idea common to all these buildings? The houses certainly contain common characteristics. The buildings have the same programme. They're generally for week-end use and there are groups of rooms arranged to entertain one's friends, as private family retreat, and for servants. The importance of southern orientation is generally accepted, so that sunlight comes into the reception rooms, and this leads to a preferred approach from the north. But the thing of paramount importance is the stress of the house and its relationship to the site. And I want to get away from the myth that Lutyens built a finite house which was then surrounded with a garden largely the work of a collaborator called Gertrude Jekyll who blended it with the surrounding countryside. In my View, that line of thought is nonsense. The gardens which Lutyens planned are absolutely integral to the house, and their design is an essential support for the idea of the building. I want to advance my view that there is a ggnceptual idea behind these buildings rather than a perceptual one. Lutyens houses are metaphoric castles which are related to their site by the extension of the geometry of the house out to the garden. Or even they may be extended by the treatment of garden elements such as hedges as fictive fortifications to protect the house against hostile surroundings. -

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