Page C2.1 . 08 October 2003                     
ArchitectureWeek - Culture Department
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  • Alfred Waterhouse's Terracotta Menagerie

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    Alfred Waterhouse's Terracotta Menagerie

    by Colin Cunningham

    When British architect Alfred Waterhouse designed a Gothic revival building for London's Natural History Museum, he integrated into its structure sculptures of some of the flora and fauna that would be featured in the exhibits. Terracotta monkeys climb the interior arches; flowers grace exterior columns. Some recently published pencil drawings by the architect/ naturalist give an insight into the Victorian Waterhouse's approach to ornament for the museum. Editor

    Since it was essential that the ornamental menagerie should not take over and obscure the architecture, Waterhouse had the formidable task of designing a wide range of plants, fossils, birds, and other animals that could be contained within the unity of his building.

    The consistent style of drawing and the faithful work of his modeler go a long way towards achieving the happy marriage of rich ornament and simple underlying form that make this building so memorable.

    It has to be remembered that even repeated patterns round a window required different models for each side, as well as for the voussoirs, keystone, and stop-ends, each of which had to be specially drawn. It was not an easy task, and there were factors other than the designer's creativity to be considered.   >>>

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    This article is excerpted from The Terracotta Designs of Alfred Waterhouse by Colin Cunningham, with permission of the publisher, John Wiley & Sons.



    ArchWeek Image

    The Natural History Museum in London, designed by Alfred Waterhouse.
    Photo: The Natural History Museum, London

    ArchWeek Image

    A pterodactyl sits on the base of a first-floor window in the east wing.
    Photo: The Natural History Museum, London


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