BARRY, Sir Charles
(b. 1795, London, d. 1860, London)

Houses of Parliament

1839-60
Photo
Westminster, London

Like no other stylistic phase of English Gothic, Perpendicular could be considered an independent English creation, independent of France and the Continent. After the end of the Napoleonic wars, there was a great desire, as in other countries, to come up with a distinct national style. The culmination of these endeavours was the rebuilding of the Houses of Parliament in London, after the devastating fire in 1834. For the first time with such a major commission, the Gothic Revival was considered appropriate for a building of such national significance. The competition in 1835 was won by Sir Charles Barry, and his design realized in the Perpendicular style has become a national symbol.

Sir Charles Barry, assisted by Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin (1812-1852), designed the present buildings in the Gothic Revival style. Construction was begun in 1837, the cornerstone was laid in 1840, and work was finished in 1860. The Commons Chamber was burned out in one of the numerous air raids that targeted London during World War II, but it was restored and reopened in 1950.

Externally, apart from the Gothic detail, it conforms to the requirements of both Classical and Picturesque architectural doctrines. The river façade of the building is largely symmetrical, but is enlivened by irregularly distributed tower structures. The narrow sides are distinguished by the Victoria Tower over the royal portal and, though not symmetrically placed, the famous clock tower of Big Ben.

The thoroughly rich details of the interiors of the Houses of Parliament (also called Palace of Westminster), the seat of the bicameral Parliament, including the House of Commons and the House of Lords, were designed by Pugin.