You know those moments, when someone terms like, “Victorian-style bungalow” or “Edwardian gables” or “art deco patterns” or “art nouveau designs”? When people use that on me, I feel as if the world is conspiring against me, by secretly taking ‘Hieroglyphic’ lessons. It’s embarrassing, frustrating, confusing and at times, humiliating. It’s also easy bait, real estate people use, to lure innocent architecturally challenged people. But you don’t have to endure this. I’m going to decode commonly used fancy architectural terms, for you to outsmart those smart people.
Victorian v/s Edwardian:
To go in the literal sense, Victorian architecture means architecture that came into being during Queen Victoria’s reign- between June 1837 and January 1901. During this period, Britain was in the throes of prosperity and elite finery. Thus, Victorian Architecture is highlighted by bright colours, elegant and emotional strokes, coloured bricks and tiles. The roof of a Victorian building or home won’t slope too high, but you’ll notice pretty tall spires. Also, the window frames are heavy looking and are more often than not, made from stone. The Victorian people made no secret of the fact that they loved decorating, and this is easily evident from their architecture. Easy giveaways should be- bay windows that stick out, iron railings, patterned brickwork, stained glassed doorways and windows, slate roofs, windows that slide up and NO garage. In many places, common classifications of Victorian architecture are- Gothic and Italianate. A classic example of a Victorian structure would be the Sydney GPO.
The Edwardian architecture- coming from the era under King Edward VII- started in 1901 and went on right till the World War 1. It may be a little tricky to identify an Edwardian home, because more often than not they have hints of Art Deco and Art Nouveau, with a stroke of Victorian and a dash of Queen Anne’s coupled with a bit of Neo-Gothic. However, there are some features that make Edwardian architecture stick out from others. For one, they are a lot more spacious than the Victorian home. An ideal Edwardian home is two-storeyed and comes with great width- wide halls and even wider bay windows and glass panes, and very high ceilings. You’re sure to find a purpose-built bathroom, an almost-grand hallway adorned with a carpet of encaustic tiles and of course, the parquet flooring which is pretty much the USP of an Edwardian home. In some homes, you’ll be surprised to find quirky little additions like cosy small corners, panelled alcoves, and cushioned benches along the fireplace- thanks to the Arts & Crafts influence. From the outside, the plain red brickwork gussied up with painted wooden balconies and verandas and fancily tiled porches make an Edwardian house most easily identifiable. Because of the time in which this style came into existence, Edwardian houses show some pretty interesting mmix of qualities that can be easily fused with more contemporary styles. They form an interesting mix of architecture and that ever-beloved old-English charm.
Art Deco and Art Nouveau:
The only thing about Art Deco that most of us know is through whatever little we saw in movies like Miami Vice. Secretly, I like how artsy they sound. Though Art Deco can be said to have originated in France, its inspiration and existence can be traced back to the ancient Egyptian civilization. Art Nouveau, on the other hand, gained popularity in the 1890s.
Both Art Deco and Art Nouveau borrow design inspirations from natural elements like flowers, insects, etc. So what’s the difference between the two, apart from the second name? Well, for one, it’s the choice of natural elements used. You know you’re looking at Art Deco when you see flowers like roses, camellias and animals that symbolise speed and agility- like leaping gazelles. Art Nouveau, on the other hand, uses softer features through flowers like orchids, lilies, irises and insects like dragonflies and spiders.
Art Deco shows more of a Geometric bend with modern lines, sharp strokes, defined angles, sleek patterns and futuristic structures. Art Deco structures can be seen as a simile for an era embracing the machine age. A perfect example of Art Deco in modern architecture is the monumental Bacardi Building in Miami. In contrast, Art Nouveau is all about the abstract and the whimsical. The main idea of Art Nouveau design was to incorporate art into everyday objects- for instance a door-knocker shaped like a dragonfly. Art Nouveau is characterized by flowing lines, rhythmic curves and a silent resistance to the classical ball and chain. What exemplifies Art Nouveau? Check any building from the central district of Riga.
Feel architecturally enlightened now? Well, you can rest assured when that Smarty-pants starts these discussions again, at least it won’t sound ‘Hieroglyphic’ anymore.
Barbara Woodberry, the author of this article is an avid reader. She loves reading books of all genre. She works as an editor for a website called the magazinesubscriptions.com, which provides its customers with the cheapest and the best deals in magazine subscriptions.