Christopher Wren as Architect

English builders did not readily adopt Renaissance design principles. For most of the 17th century, the humanist conception of architecture remained the province of gentlemen amateurs, who saw the art as a complement to other forms of polite learning. Christopher Wren was an architect of just this type. He had no background in building, but was by training a scholar, mathematician and natural philosopher.

Like the engineers of the sixteenth century, Wren saw architecture as a form of mathematical practice. Indeed, his interest in the art is almost inconceivable without it. But his vision of the discipline was also supplemented by new developments in mechanical invention, antiquarian study, and natural philosophy. The next two sections of the exhibition concentrate on two key stages of his career: his introduction to the art at Oxford in the first half of the 1660s and his work on St Paul’s Cathedral at the end of the 17th and beginning of the 18th century.

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