Sir Robert Smirke
Smirke, Sir Robert
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.
Architectural History, vi (1963), 91–102;
Arkansas, cxlii/847 (Sept. 1967), 208–10;
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
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).