Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Sir William Chambers (1723-1796) was a Scottish architect, (though born in Stockholm where his father was a merchant). Between 1740 and 1749 he was employed by the Swedish East India Company making several voyages to China where he studied Chinese architecture and decoration.
Returning to Europe, he studied architecture in Paris (with J. F. Blondel) and spent five years in Italy. Then, in 1755, he returned to England and established an architectural practice in London. Through a recommendation of the 4th Earl of Bute he was appointed architectural tutor to the Prince of Wales, later George III, and also, with Robert Adam, Architect of the King's Works. He worked for Augusta, Dowager Princess of Wales making fanciful garden buildings at Kew, and in 1757 he published a book of Chinese designs which had quite an influence on contemporary taste.
(The Pagoda, in Pagoda Gardens, Blackheath, London is attributed to Chambers. A three-storey house built as a pavilion (c. 1775) for the Duke and Duchess of Buccleuch, it features a gabled Chinese-style roof with dramatic upturned corners. Caroline of Brunswick lived here after her separation from her husband, the Prince Regent, in 1799.)
In 1759 his more serious and academic Treatise on Civil Architecture had an influence on builders; it went into several editions and was still being republished in 1826. His influence was transmitted also through a host of younger architects trained in his office.
He was the major rival of Adam in English Neoclassicism. Chambers was more international in outlook (his knighthood being originally a Swedish honor) and was influenced by continental neoclassicism (which he in turn influenced) when designing for English clients. A second visit to Paris in 1774 confirmed the French cast to his sober and conservative refined blend of Neoclassicism and Palladian conventions.
He is also associated with Gothic additions to Milton Abbey in Dorset and the planning of the nearby rural village of Milton Abbas, sometimes considered the first planned settlement in England. This work was carried out in collaboration with landscape gardener Capability Brown in 1780 for Joseph Damer, the Earl of Dorchester , who wanted to relocate the existing village further away from his home at the Abbey.
He was born in Peebles and came to Edinburgh in 1814 to work in the bookselling trade. He opened his own shop in 1819 and branched out into printing. With his younger brother, Robert, he produced books of Scottish interest, such as Gazetteer of Scotland. Their publishing business prospered, and in 1859 - the year in which Chambers Encyclopaedia saw the light - he founded a museum and art gallery in Peebles. As Lord Provost of Edinburgh from 1865 to 1869, he was responsible for the restoration of St Giles Cathedral.
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