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Basevi, Elias George

Basevi, Elias George (1794–1845). London-born architect, related to the Jewish families of Disraeli and Ricardo, one of several pupils of Soane. After a tour of Greece and Italy in 1816, he returned to London well able to provide an eclectic architecture in growing demand at that time. From 1820, when he established his practice, he designed several London squares and terraces, including Belgrave Square (1825–40), Alexander Square (1827–30), Thurloe Square (c.1839–45), and, from 1833, Pelham Crescent, Pelham Place, Egerton Crescent, and Walton Place for the trustees of the Smith's Charity Estate. In these developments he reinterpreted the late-C18 domestic architecture of London, giving it a new freshness without slavish archaeological or antiquarian bias. Like many of his contemporaries, Basevi was capable of designing in many styles, including Gothic, and was responsible for the Tudor Revival Dr Fryer's Almshouses and Truesdale's Hospital in Stamford, Lincs, of 1832, both agreeable essays in that style. His best-known work is the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge (1836–45), completed by C. R. Cockerell and E. M. Barry, which eloquently demonstrates the change from Regency to Victorian taste: a new opulence, far removed from the chilly Greek Revival that had been de rigueur for public buildings in the two decades since 1815, was evident in a noble synthesis of Graeco-Roman and Renaissance themes. The monumental portico with its flanking colonnades terminating in end-pavilions was derived from Antique precedent at Brescia, and further gravitas was given by the Attic-storey rising above the pediment. In collaboration with Sydney Smirke he designed the Conservative Club in St James's Street (1843–4). Had he not fallen to his premature death while inspecting the west tower of Ely Cathedral, Cambs, he could well have been the greatest Classical architect of his generation.

Bibliography

Bolton (1925);
Colvin (1995);
Sheppard (ed.) (1983);
Jane Turner (1996)

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