The Victorian Art School : Architecture, History, Environment book cover
1st Edition

The Victorian Art School
Architecture, History, Environment

ISBN 9780367896430
Published September 3, 2020 by Routledge
226 Pages 137 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

The Victorian Art School documents the history of the art school in the nineteenth century, from its origins in South Kensington to its proliferation through the major industrial centres of Britain. Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s Glasgow School of Art, together with earlier examples in Manchester and Birmingham demonstrate an unprecedented concern for the provision of plentiful light and air amidst the pollution of the Victorian city. As theories of design education and local governance converged, they also reveal the struggle of the provincial city for cultural independence from the capital.

Examining innovations in the use of new technologies and approaches in the design of these buildings, The Victorian Art School offers a unique and explicitly environmental reading of the Victorian city. It examines how art schools complemented civic ‘Improvement’ programmes, their contribution to the evolution of art pedagogy, the tensions that arose between the provincial schools and the capital, and the role they would play in reimagining the relationship between art and public life in a rapidly transforming society.

The architects of these buildings synthesised the potential of art with the perfection of the internal environment, indelibly shaping the future cultural life of Britain.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction

The Environment of the City

Urban Improvement

A Municipal Awakening

2. ‘By the Gains of Industry we Promote Art’: New schools for design

Lighting in the Early Academies

The Department of Science and Art

The Culture of the Artisan

3. A worthy facade: Manchester School of Art

The Condition of Manchester

Fine Art or Design?

Who Pays?

A Spacious Site

Galleries and Studios

4. ‘Drawn from the light’: Birmingham School of Art

Chamberlain and the Civic Gospel

The Value of Culture

The Industrial Patronage of Art Education

The Influence of Ruskin

The Evolution of the Design

The School’s Influence

5. Into clean air: Glasgow School of Art

‘Let Art Flourish’

Realising the Ideal Environment

Lighting, Ventilation and Warming

A Formal Synthesis

A Microcosm of the City

6. ‘Local centres of civilisation’: The art school in context

Parting the Smoke

The Civilising Power of Art

Culture as a Civic Project

Dissolving into Light and Air

Unifying Art and Design

Concluding Remarks



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Ranald Lawrence is a Lecturer in Architecture at the University of Liverpool. His research examines the history of environmental design, and the broader relationship between buildings and climate in different cultural contexts. Ranald has worked with several award-winning architectural practices as a designer and researcher. He completed his PhD research on Victorian art schools at the University of Cambridge, funded by the AHRC.


"In this rich study of the art school buildings built in the problematic urban microclimates of the three greatest Victorian cities, Manchester, Birmingham and Glasgow, Ranald Lawrence adds a significant new dimension to our understanding of the architecture of that time." - Dean Hawkes, Emeritus Professor, Welsh School of Architecture, Cardiff, and Darwin College, Cambridge

"Lawrence’s book is an impressive and erudite new insight into a period that still has technical and cultural relevance for architects and others working in the field of the built environment." - Professor Colin Porteous OBE, Glasgow School of Art