Building reputations

Architecture and the artisan, 1750–1830

By Conor Lucey

Building reputations


  • eBook

Book Information

  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN: 978-1-5261-1994-0
  • Pages: 264
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £75.00
  • Published Date: May 2018
  • BIC Category: Art History, ART / History / General, Humanities / Social & cultural history, The arts / History of art & design styles: c 1600 to c 1800, The arts / History of architecture
  • Series: Studies in Design and Material Culture


Taking a cue from revisionist scholarship on early modern vernacular architectures and their relationship to the classical canon, this book rehabilitates the reputations of a representative if misunderstood building typology - the eighteenth-century brick terraced house - and the artisan communities of bricklayers, carpenters and plasterers responsible for its design and construction. Opening with a cultural history of the building tradesman in terms of his reception within contemporary architectural discourse, chapters consider the design, decoration and marketing of the town house in the principal cities of the eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century British Atlantic world. The book is essential reading for students and scholars of the history of architectural design and interior decoration specifically, and of eighteenth-century society and culture generally.


'This is a fine book about the significant role of artisan house builders as architectural designers in the later Georgian period. When they did not exit their trades to become what earlier historians have ranked as 'architects', these artisan builders have remained shadowy figures. Ranging widely and with an even-handed command of material from both sides of the British Atlantic, especially giving Dublin due weight, Conor Lucey illuminates these people and their contributions to architectural design with insight, detail, clarity and humour.'
Peter Guillery, Bartlett School of Architecture, London

'Lucey's fascinating book explores the role of the artisan in the still somewhat mysterious design processes behind the creation of the urban terraced house. Based on extensive new research it will enable us to place artisan-builders alongside other well-known designer-makers - such as print, furniture or ceramic specialists - in the period. Histories to date have focussed on the tradesman's role in the construction of town houses but Lucey makes a compelling argument for their contribution to the design and decoration of both exteriors and interiors. In doing so he extends existing scholarship in exciting new directions enabling us more fully to understand the workings of the building trade across the second half of the long eighteenth century. The book's scope is transatlantic and crucially Ireland for the first time, alongside England and America, is brought into discussions on the inter-connections across the eighteenth-century Atlantic building world.'
Elizabeth McKellar, The Open University

'This is the first study of eighteenth-century century building activity which addresses the city house in Britain, Ireland and the American colonies with focus on London, Dublin and Philadelphia. This grand vista of urban domestic builders in the Atlantic world is mirrored in the range of scholarship that is brought to bear on the topic, a rich field of study brilliantly marshalled to provide the reader with a lucid, insightful and hugely stimulating panorama of new directions in architectural history. Lucey argues that the late eighteenth-century townhouse interior owed more to the plasterer and builder as agents of taste than it did to the sensibilities of its occupants and in so doing points up the builder's facility for design and decoration. This book is an argument, a new apology for the builder, a broadside which asks us not to dumb down creative skill in the operative parts of architectural production. It is a book which will undoubtedly build reputation.'
Professor Christine Casey, Trinity College Dublin


Conor Lucey is Assistant Professor in the School of Art History & Cultural Policy at University College Dublin


Introduction: a new apology for the builder
1 Building reputations: a genteel life in trade
2 Designing houses: the façade and the architecture of street and square
3 Decorating houses: style, taste and the business of decoration
4 Building sales: advertising and the property market
Conclusion: the builder rehabilitated?
Select Bibliography

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