Skip to main content
Select Source:

Smirke, Sir Robert

Smirke, Sir Robert (1780–1867). English architect. He trained briefly with Soane (with whom he quarrelled) and the younger Dance before travelling in France, Greece, Italy, and Sicily (1801–5), publishing Specimens of Continental Architecture (1806) after his return in 1805. He set up in practice in London, and found favour with the Establishment. Among his first works were the castellated Lowther Castle, Westmd. (1806–11), and Eastnor Castle (also castellated), Herefs. (1812–20), but he made his reputation with Covent Garden Theatre, London (1808–9—destroyed, but rebuilt 1856–8 by E. M. Barry), the first public building in the capital to have a pure Greek Doric portico. Thereafter he became an important protagonist of the Greek Revival. In 1813, with Nash and Soane, he was appointed as one of the three Architects to the Office of Works, and he gained several important London commissions including the General Post Office, St Martin's Le Grand (1824–9—demolished), the Custom House (1825–7—a rebuilding after the failure of the foundations of Laing's building), King's College, The Strand (1830–5), and his master-piece, the prestigious British Museum, Bloomsbury (1823–46). He also designed the Royal College of Physicians (now Canada House), Trafalgar Square (1822–5—remodelled 1925), and the Oxford and Cambridge Club, Pall Mall (1835–8—with his brother Sydney).

He built or altered around 30 country-houses, and designed 8 county-halls, including those at Bristol, Carlisle, Gloucester, Hereford, Lincoln, Maidstone, Perth, and Shrewsbury, all buildings of some personality and presence, but it is as a Greek Revivalist that he produced his best work. The British Museum is one of the greatest buildings in that style in England, with its noble Greek Ionic Order, the capitals based on those of the Temple of Athena Polias, Priene (338 BC and later), and the bases on those of the Temple of Dionysus, Teos (c.130 BC), and King's Library (arguably the finest Neo-Classical interior in England). Greek Revival was admirably suited to Smirke's taste for geometrical simplicity and rationalism: a tendency to simplify further and create crisply cubical compositions was apparent at his Kinmount, Dumfriesshire (1812), The Homend, Stretton Grandison, Herefs. (1814–21), and Worthy House, Hants. (1816). One of his best buildings was the mausoleum and church at Milton, West Markham, Notts. (1831–2), for the 4th Duke of Newcastle. He was innovative in construction, pioneering concrete foundations, fireproof hollow-clay vaults, and the use of iron in architecture. Among his successful pupils and assistants were William Burn, C. R. Cockerell, Henry Roberts, Lewis Vulliamy, and his own brother, Sydney Smirke. Although a conventional designer, his office was regarded as the most progressive of its time, certainly in the 1820s and early 1830s.

Bibliography

Architectural History, vi (1963), 91–102;
Arkansas, cxlii/847 (Sept. 1967), 208–10;
Colvin (1995);
Crook (1972, 1972a);
Crook & and Port (1973);
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004);
Placzek (ed.) (1982);
Summerson (ed.) (2003);
Jane Turner (1996);
Trans. Newcomen Society, xxxviii (1965–6), 5–22

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Smirke, Sir Robert." A Dictionary of Architecture and Landscape Architecture. . Encyclopedia.com. 26 Jun. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Smirke, Sir Robert." A Dictionary of Architecture and Landscape Architecture. . Encyclopedia.com. (June 26, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/smirke-sir-robert

"Smirke, Sir Robert." A Dictionary of Architecture and Landscape Architecture. . Retrieved June 26, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/smirke-sir-robert

Smirke, Sir Robert

Sir Robert Smirke, 1781–1867, English architect, one of the most noted exponents of the classic revival. His best-known design is the main facade of the British Museum (1823–47). Other buildings in London are the General Post Office and the Royal College of Physicians. Smirke's influence resulted in a more accurate interpretation of Greek forms in the English work of the time. Upon his retirement (1847), his brother, Sydney Smirke, 1798–1877, took up the work at the British Museum, where he erected the western side of the quadrangle and the new reading room (1854–57). In 1857 he rebuilt the Carlton Club, London, on a design adopted from the Library of St. Mark's at Venice; he also built the exhibition galleries for the Royal Academy at Burlington House (1866).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Smirke, Sir Robert." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 26 Jun. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Smirke, Sir Robert." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (June 26, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/smirke-sir-robert

"Smirke, Sir Robert." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved June 26, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/smirke-sir-robert

Smirke, Robert

Smirke, Robert (1781–1867) English neo-classical architect, one of the chief promoters of the Greek revival in British architecture. Smirke's most famous building is the British Museum, London (begun 1823), with its impressive Ionic façade. He also built the Covent Garden Theatre (1808–09).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Smirke, Robert." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. 26 Jun. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Smirke, Robert." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (June 26, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/smirke-robert

"Smirke, Robert." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved June 26, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/smirke-robert