Henry Hobson Richardson, Architect; born in Priestley Plantation, La. He graduated from Harvard (1859) and studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Paris. He returned to open his practice in New York in 1866, in an early partnership (1867-78) with Charles Dexter Gam brill, designing chiefly churches. After employment in Paris, he began practice (1866) in New York City but moved to Brookline, Mass. , in 1874. Trinity Church in Boston (1872-77) was his first monumental work; its French Romanesque design was a departure from the Gothic revival that controlled contemporaneous American architecture.
In it and in subsequent works Richardson developed a free and strongly personal interpretation of Romanesque design. His design for Trinity Church, Boston (1872-77), won him national recognition. Practicing independently after 1878 in Brookline, Mass. , he designed a number of small suburban libraries and railroad stations, Harvard residence halls, commercial buildings, and private houses, and collaborated on the New York State Capitol, Albany (1876-86).
His final works were the Allegheny County Courthouse and Jail, Pittsburgh (1883-88), and the Marshall Field Wholesale Store, Chicago (1885-87), completed by assistants after Richardson’s death. Richardson’s designs progressively refined Romanesque forms into a style termed “Richardson ian,” inspiring the American Romanesque revival. He was a major representative of romanticism in American architecture and was noted for his revival of Romanesque design. The style, known as Richardson Romanesque, spread and won many followers, exerting a great influence upon the building arts of the period, especially in the young, growing cities of Chicago, Cleveland, Cincinnati, and St. Louis. Richardson’s buildings showed strength, simplicity, and a skilful employment of varied materials.
... still see this style existing in many Romanesque churches. “The walls of Romanesque buildings are often of massive thickness with ... of Christ in Romanesque design, a very similar piece had been carved on a different church carved twelve years earlier ... sides of church. Compared to Gothic architecture, Romanesque architecture was an outdated technique when it came to efficiency. Romanesque design wasn’ ...
In his country houses of wood he produced a distinct American type. At the end of 19 th century Richardson produced the buildings upon which his reputation principally rests. He designed houses, community libraries, suburban railroad stations, educational buildings, and commercial and civic structures. Instead of the splintered massing, narrow vertical proportions, and disparate Gothic features used by his contemporaries, he favoured horizontal lines, simple silhouettes, and uniform, large-scale details of Romanesque or Byzantine inspiration. Since his best commercial structure, the Marshall Field Wholesale Store in Chicago (1885-87), were demolished in 1930. Constructed between 1885 and 1887, seven storeys high, covering an entire city block, the Marshall Field Wholesale Store, designed by Henry Hobson Richardson.
The store was not the tallest masonry structure in Chicago. Moreover, the design featured many soon-to-be anachronistic elements common to the design philosophy taught at Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris, the premier architectural school of the day. Indeed, Richardson had trained in Paris. The building s importance was not Richardson s adherence to convention; rather it was his departure from convention.
Grandeur, strength, and distinction, he demonstrated, could be achieved without ornamentation. The versatility of concrete, steel and glass had not yet developed. Richardson s work did, however, maximize the utility of masonry while demonstrating the reduction of design to function rather than have it merely anchor an elaboration of form. This approach was a precursor to the techniques, which would find fullest expression with the new building materials. Moreover, Richardson demonstrated that a structure worked best if it reflected the environment in which it was situated. The Chicago of the day was raw, vigorous, and forceful; the Chicago of the poet Carl Sandberg was symbolically manifest in Richardson s design of the Marshall Field store.
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The Marshall Field Wholesale Store is a major landmark in this movement. Here a rhythmic pattern of masonry arches envelops a powerful steel skeleton. The overall design is sombre and dignified. Richardson s work was a powerful influence.
This is notably so in the work of Stanford White and C. F. McKim, two of the designers responsible for the Great Hall of Penn Station. Also certainly influenced by Richardson was Louis H. Sullivan, a giant of American architecture and a key link in the chain, which brought architecture forward to set the stage for the work of Frank Lloyd Wright. Richardson s thematic elimination of ornament in the Marshall Field store design inspired Sullivan to expand the principle in his design of the Auditorium Building in Chicago in 1888, one of the last grand masonry buildings in America.
Still in use today, the structure provides a large auditorium, offices and a hotel. It features a two-storey plinth in front with an office tower in back. The building s importance was not Richardson s adherence to convention; rather it was his departure from convention. Grandeur, strength, and distinction, he demonstrated, could be achieved without ornamentation.
The versatility of concrete, steel and glass had not yet developed. Richardson s work did, however, maximize the utility of masonry while demonstrating the reduction of design to function rather than have it merely anchor an elaboration of form. This approach was a precursor to the techniques, which would find fullest expression with the new building materials.