WILKINS, William the Younger
(b. 1778, Norwich, d. 1839, Cambridge)
English architect, writer, and collector, son of the architect William Wilkins the Elder (1751-1815). Educated at Cambridge, he became acquainted with Greek and Italian architecture during his travels (1801-04). He set up his office in London in 1809 and quickly established himself as a leading figure of the Greek Revival. He designed the first pure Greek Doric portico for any English country-house at Osberton House, Nottinghamshire (c. 1805, demolished). This was followed by the East India (now Haileybury) College, Hertfordshire (1806-09), and then Downing College, Cambridge (1807-20), both early and important buildings of the Greek Revival. In the latter case, where Wilkins's scheme was selected instead of James Wyatt's Neoclassical design, Thomas Hope (1769-1831) was the chief protagonist in promoting the Grecian style. Downing was the first of all university campuses, or separate buildings disposed around a grassed area.
Wilkins followed these important schemes with University College, London (1827-28), the Philosophical Society's Museum, York (1827-30), St George's Hospital, Hyde Park Corner, London (1828-29), and the National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, London (1834-38), all in the Grecian style, although the last had a disastrous effect on his reputation for its lack of distinction. Two of his most handsome creations in the Greek Revival style, were the Nelson 'pillar' (i.e. column), Sackville (later O'Connell) Street, Dublin (1808-09, destroyed 1966), and the Nelson Column, Great Yarmouth, Norfolk (1817-20, now marooned in impossibly bleak and hideous surroundings).
At Grange Park, Hampshire. (from 1809), he used Greek Revival for an English country-house, and created one of England's noblest buildings in that style. Elsewhere he succumbed to fashion and designed in Tudor Gothic, including Dalmeny House, West Lothian (1814-17), Dunmore Park, Stirlingshire (1820-22), and New Court, Trinity College, Cambridge (1823-25). At King's College, Cambridge, however, he responded brilliantly to the great medieval chapel by designing the entrance-screen, gateway, and new buildings (1824-28), in a Tudor Gothic of great charm, inventiveness, and delicacy. However, as a Classical (and especially Greek Revival) architect, Wilkins could be somewhat prissy and feeble, for, with the exception of Grange Park, his buildings tend to lack any sense of power in massing, although his detailing was always scholarly, if constricted by his inhibitions as a designer.
However, Wilkins was among the first to note the optical corrections used by the Greeks in their buildings, and his The Antiquities of Magna Graecia (1807) contained accurate illustrations of the Greek temples at Agrigentum, Paestum, Segesta, and Syracuse. He also published Atheniensia, or Remarks on the Topography and Buildings of Athens (1816), as well as The Civil Architecture of Vitruvius (1812, an incomplete translation), and Prolusiones Architectonicae (1837, essays on Greek and Roman architecture probably based on his lectures as Professor of Architecture at the Royal Academy), among other works.