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Timothy Brittain-Catlin, Jan De Maeyer and Martin Bressani (eds.), Gothic Revival Worldwide: A.W.N. Pugin’s Global Influence

Leuven: Leuven University Press, 2016 (KADOC Artes, 16)
Stuart King
Référence(s) :

Timothy Brittain-Catlin, Jan De Maeyer and Martin Bressani (eds.), Gothic Revival Worldwide: A.W.N. Pugin’s Global Influence, Leuven: Leuven University Press, 2016 (KADOC Artes, 16)

Entrées d’index

Index de mots-clés :

architecture religieuse

Index by keyword:

religious architecture

Indice de palabras clave:

arquitectura religiosa


Neogotik, Religiöse Architektur

Parole chiave:


Index chronologique :

XIXe siècle
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1Gothic Revival Worldwide: A.W.N. Pugin’s Global Influence (2016) is an edited collection that attempts to define the current state of Pugin scholarship, and Gothic Revival studies more generally, internationally. It arises from the conference “New Directions in Gothic Revival Studies Worldwide,” hosted by the Centre for Research in European Architecture at the Kent School of Architecture, University of Kent, in July 2012, which marked the bicentenary of A.W.N. Pugin’s birth. It is an immediately interesting anthology with a wide geographic scope and historiographic ambition.

2The introduction by the editors, Timothy Brittain-Catlin, Jan De Maeyer and Martin Bressani, provides an engaging overview of shifting perspectives in Pugin historiography across the twentieth century and a rising interest in Pugin since the turn of the century. This interest has been generated by new critical lenses being applied to Pugin’s archives, his writing and architecture, and to the Gothic Revival more generally, especially in Britain, Australia and North America. This has led to a re-evaluation of Puginian historiography, and the beginnings of an attempt to decentre it. Moreover, recent studies such as G. A. Bremner’s Imperial Gothic: Religious Architecture and High Anglican Culture in the British Empire c.1840-1870 (2013) and Michael Hall’s George Frederick Bodley and the later Gothic Revival in Britain and America (2014) have provided approaches for global investigations foreshadowing this “worldwide” collection. The contributors’ chapters follow, presenting a varied picture of current scholarship in a framework that is both geographical and methodological: “Pugin and Puginism in Europe,” “Puginism in the Americas and the Pacific” and, thirdly, “Re-evaluating Puginism in Britain.” Reading this volume while in Tasmania (south of “continental” Australia), where Pugin looms large, it is the interplay between places and methodological approaches connected to contexts and evidence that presents especial interest in the historiographic web of Gothic Revival Worldwide.

3The three opening essays on Pugin and Puginism in Europe are fine-grained studies employing original letters, drawings, and buildings to examine Pugin’s familial, social, and professional relationships and collaborations in France and Belgium. Stephen Bann’s examination of original letters and sketches brings new perspectives on the French connections influencing the young Pugin. Jessica Brasciano examines the intersecting connections revolving around Pugin and the design and construction of Notre Dame de Bonsecours in Rouen (1840‒1844) to highlight the impact of Catholic patronage on the French Gothic Revival. Relationships affecting architectural and design production are brought to the fore by Gilles Maury’s chapter on the associations between Pugin and the Belgian architect Jean-Baptiste Bethune, his sons, and a close circle of acquaintances, including the entrepreneurial Desclée brothers (manufacturers and publishers).

4The section on Puginism in the Americas and the Pacific is, by a virtue of its geographic scope, the most wide-ranging, with nine chapters exploring the interpretation and reception of Puginian ideals in widely varying circumstances. Regional case studies are from North and South America, from across the Pacific Ocean to Australia, and north to Mongolia. They include Richard A. Sundt’s provocative survey of understudied Gothic Revival churches in Argentina and Mexico, as well as Brazil, Chile and Colombia. Other contributions examine the agency of local environmental and social conditions, clients and congregations, all brought to bear on Puginian discourse and building. Importantly, those discussions include resistance as well as adaptation that affected design. Buildings and their contexts provide critical evidence in this section. Candace Iron and Malcolm Thurlby discuss the adaptation of Pugin’s True Principles in both Anglican and Irish Catholic churches in Ontario, Canada. Stephen McNair details the impact of local social institutions and attitudes, alongside the contingencies of small rural parishes, negotiated in modest timber board and battened Gothic churches in antebellum Alabama; while G. A. Bremner’s detailed account of the Patteson Memorial Chapel on Norfolk Island (in the Pacific, roughly 1600km east of Sydney) makes the case that it was “In Extremis” that “the boldest and most daring forms of architectural experimentation were taking place” (p. 155). Together, these chapters present a multi-faceted, Pugin-inspired Gothic Revival comprising a diverse set of places and architectural responses that were equally diverse in terms of their reception. Indeed, Peter Coffman shows that as the Gothic Revival took hold in Atlantic Canada its architecture was variously interpreted as English, Catholic, Protestant or Dissenting.

5To approach Puginian historiography through webs of connection, practice, and interpretation—regionally and globally—contributes to the wider task of breaking down the binaries associated with the study of European architecture abroad. In this volume, the regional case studies present overlapping fields of practice with a number of contributions working across them. Thomas Coomans’ chapter on the Belgian St Luke’s schools extends the earlier chapters on Pugin’s connections and influence in Belgium, via Catholic missionaries, to China and Inner Mongolia. Similarly, working across metropolitan and Australian colonial buildings, Karen Burns argues that the “Gothic was a plastic medium in form and ideology” (p. 141). Historiographic binaries are also addressed by some of the authors. For instance, Cameron Macdonell’s chapter on the “American Pugins”—Ralph Adams Cram and Bertram Goodhue—provides a particularly interesting case to reconsider the historiographic boundaries of the Gothic Revival across the Georgian and Victorian eras.

6The volume’s third section returns to Britain and is concerned with new connections in the scholarship of Pugin’s career, which serves to locate the book’s discourses and buildings in a wider field of cultural and architectural production. Peter Lindfield considers the emergence of design principles in Gothic Revival furniture from the later eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries that pre-empt Pugin’s True Principles. By engaging architectural science, Henrik Schoenefeldt offers a fresh and illuminating view of canonical architectural history, examining the effects of the evolving ventilation system on the iconic Gothic form and composition of the Palace of Westminster. Another fruitful intersection of disciplines is explored in Alex Lawrey’s chapter, which sits at the junction of architectural and labour histories and argues that the organisation of building labour was an integral element of the Gothic Revival. Finally, Stephen Kite considers Pugin’s influence on John Ruskin’s notion of the “energetic shadow,” and an alternative narrative for Puginian influence extending into the second half of the nineteenth century.

7Gothic Revival Worldwide is handsomely produced and each chapter is generously illustrated with reproductions from archival documents and colour photographs of surprising buildings, interiors, and fittings. However, it reflects the realities of conferences and their proceedings, no matter how select, through some unevenness. There are many places not represented in this “worldwide” volume of “global influence”: for example, Pugin’s influence around the Indian Ocean; in former colonial possessions in Africa; and in South and Southeast Asia. Perhaps these absences reflect existing scholarship as much as they do new opportunities. Geographic ambition and gaps aside, this volume presents an engaging reconnoitre of the interconnected webs of the Gothic Revival, revealed by it wide scope and its invitation to further research.

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Stuart King, « Timothy Brittain-Catlin, Jan De Maeyer and Martin Bressani (eds.), Gothic Revival Worldwide: A.W.N. Pugin’s Global Influence »ABE Journal [En ligne], 13 | 2018, mis en ligne le 15 octobre 2018, consulté le 13 juillet 2024. URL : ; DOI :

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Stuart King

Senior Lecturer, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia

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