Renaissance architecture (1550-1650)

The revival of classical ideals—and Italian style

While Italy and even France were experimenting with the Renaissance ideals of proportion, order, Classical inspiration, and mathematical precision to create unified, balanced structures, England was still happily trundling along with the late Tudor Gothic Perpendicular style (the Tudor use of redbrick became a major feature of later Gothic revivals as well) in places such as Hampton Court Palace and Bath Abbey (great fan vaulting). 

It wasn't until the Elizabethan era that the Brits turned to the Renaissance style sweeping the Continent—however, with the exception of Inigo Jones, they often tempered it with a heavy dose of traditional Gothic-like elements.

Identifiable Features

  • Proportion, symmetry, and Classical orders. Other than a close eye to these Renaissance ideals, little specifically identifies Renaissance buildings.

Best Examples

  • Robert Smythson (1535-1614). This early Elizabethan era architect was responsible for two of the greatest mansions of the era: Hardwick Hall in Derbyshire, virtually abandoned and therefore wonderfully preserved (if a bit dilapidated) in its 16th century condition; and Longleat House, an elegant Wiltshire manse with a park deigned by premier Renaissance landscape architect and garden designer Capability Brown.
  • Inigo Jones (1573-1652). England's greatest Renaissance architect brought back from his travel in Italy a fevered imagination full of all he had seen plus the exactingly classical theories of Palladianism. He used them to construct such edifices as Queen's House in Greenwich, the Queen's Chapel in St. James's Palace, London, the Banqueting House in Whitehall, and the state rooms of Wiltshire's Wilton House, where Shakespeare performed and D-Day was planned. Recently, Shakespeare's Globe Theatre dusted off one of his never-realized plans and used it to construct their new indoor theater.