Past ideals resonate as UK's Red House hits 150

Tue Jun 15, 2010 10:39am EDT
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By Julie Mollins

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Studied by architecture students worldwide for its impact on the history of design, Britain's Red House celebrates the anniversary of its June 1860 completion amid renewed interior restoration efforts.

Commissioned by William Morris, the renowned 19th century socialist promoter of the arts and crafts, Red House was designed by Philip Webb, a leader of the English Domestic Revival architecture movement.

The distinctive, red brick house highlights a watershed period of design during which architects tried to revive a romanticized vision of old England by including such features as tall Tudor-style chimneys, asymmetrical compositions and Gothic elements in their buildings.

Webb experimented with an eclectic mix of styles to generate an influential new form of architecture.

"It looks back in terms of its appeal to medieval design qualities and concepts, but it also looks forward in that it anticipates a great deal of modern domestic architecture after 1860, which often shows a genetic link to early houses like Red House," National Trust custodian Patrick Joel told Reuters.

"This is the cradle of the Arts-and-Crafts movement," he added.

"While you can see the sequence from Morris and Webb's Gothic interior through to Arts-and-Crafts principles later, they are not yet emergent at Red House."

An important guiding concept in the Arts-and-Crafts movement, which arose in reaction to industrialization, was the revival of medieval methods of construction and a spirit of communal fellowship.   Continued...

<p>A couple stands in front of a well at Red House in Bexleyheath April 24, 2010. REUTERS/Julie Mollins</p>