The Victorian Age, the period between mid 1800s to the beginning of 1900’s, is significant because of the sense of dizzying change it is characterized by. This era witnessed some form of change in every imaginable sphere of life- technology, literature, art, woman rights, religious beliefs, fashion, social structure et al. In this era some of the most significant technological advancements and engineering marvels were made. With the invention of the steam engine the pace of the spread of change increased exponentially. People, goods, ideas were no longer restricted.
This sense of freedom permeated every section of the society and evoked a sense of doubt that challenged the existing beliefs regarding religion, sexuality, social structure and the role of women. Unsurprisingly, this sense of freedom and the tumulus change in the thought process is reflected heavily in the architecture of this period.
The patrons and architects travelled extensively and were inspired by the different forms of architecture outside their regional landscape. There was a revolution in the pre-existing ideas regarding buildings. There was a sense of need to display the awareness regarding other architectural styles and thus there was a lot of blending of styles, forms and method of construction. There was extensive use of parts of old buildings in a new one and combining different styles of windows, doors and carvings from various periods and foreign lands. Thus, Victorian Architecture can be best typified as an eclectic mix of styles that when viewed in its entirety across the period is extremely distinct.
The Victorian era architecture saw the revival of Gothic, Classical (Greek and Roman), Renaissance and Baroque architecture.
Victorian architecture can be easily recognized by the presence of Bay Windows (windows that sticks out of a house, that can have windows on the side of it), Dentils (moldings going around a house with rectangle holes in it), Columns (round or square shaped post usually holding up the roof),Dormers (window that sticks out from the roof that has a roof of its own),Gable(the triangular part at the end of a building formed by the two sides of a sloping roof.),Porticos and Turrets.
It was also a period of vivid colors & floral ornamentation in plaster & wood. There was widespread use of stained glass, patterned bricks, decorated roof line and slate and floor tiles. The furniture was thickly upholstered & carved displaying curves and Shapes. Mechanical constructions started to become more advanced-numerous bridges, ships and structures within a building using glass, steel and iron where built.
The array of buildings that were built during this time were vast- including but not limited to - railway stations, churches, commercial buildings, houses, municipal buildings and asylums. Some of the famous examples of Victorian Architecture include the Royal Albert Hall, London; Victoria Law Courts, UK; The pavilion at the Oval Stadium, the Crystal Palace and Forth Rail Bridge.
The most remarkable feature of Victorian Architecture was that it spread internationally. Even though America after the end of Britain’s colonial rule consciously attempted to break away from all things British, America could not help but adopt the Victorian style of Architecture during this period. Some of the noted Victorian Architecture (apart from the many houses that built on this style all over America particularly in San Francisco) are Brooklyn Bridge, California Southern Rail, Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, The Carson Mansion etc.
In India too, Victorian architecture can be seen widely - The Victoria Memorial, Indian Museum, High Court in Kolkata, St. Stephen’s, Old Town Hall, Mutiny Memorial in Delhi, The Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (Victoria Terminus), the BMC building, Asiatic Library, the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (formerly the Prince of Wales Museum), the Mumbai University building along with the Rajabai Tower in Mumbai- are some prime examples.
Victorian Architecture is one of the most recognized architectural styles in the world. This period has left us with some iconic monuments and buildings that are pieces of art. The Victorian buildings with their highly ornamental exteriors, complicated structures, asymmetrical facades, expansive porches, expensive décor and building material, imposing towers and whimsical yet classical touches make them a treat for one’s eyes.