Henry Hobson Richardson was an American architect and was one of the recognized trinity of American architects. He was the initiator of the Romanesque revival called Richardsonian Romanesque in the United States and a pioneer figure in the modern American style of architecture and its urban development. He was widely appreciated for his classic architecture.
Richardson was born on September 29, 1838, in Priestly Plantation, St. James Parish, Louisiana, US. He spent his childhood in New Orleans with his family. He was the great-grandson of the discoverer of Oxygen, Joseph Priestly who was a renowned inventor and a philosopher.
In 1885, Richardson moved from south to Harvard University where he studied civil engineering but later his interest shifted to architecture which further encouraged him to attend the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris (1860) and became the second US citizen to attend it as the Universities in US did not offer schools of architecture before the civil war. He completed his graduation in 1862 when the civil war at home cut off his income but soon after his graduation, he received immediate commissions became one of the most qualified and successful architects of US.
Richardson returned to the US in 1865 and got settled in New York with his wife Julia Gorham Hayden. Later he worked with Charles D. Gambrill a builder but he did not earn much and was in a state of poverty which led him to adopt a unique style of his own which had a classical style with a medieval-inspired style. He adopted the Romanesque style of Southern France. During his time span of 11 years in New York, he designed many projects that became future landmarks of US including the famous Trinity Church in Boston which is one of the significant Churches of America.
He was one of the few architects who had their own style; named after them like Henry had the style “Richardsonian Romanesque” named after his surname Richardson. It was a personal synthesis of the Beaux-Arts predilection having heavy massing along with clear and legible plans which was favored by the pro medievalists.
His style featured massive walls, round arches over clusters of window and atop short, picturesque roofline profiles, squat columns carved out of varying shades of rusticated stone typify the style and displayed an expressive language of stone-walling and designed many city buildings, Churches, libraries, suburban railroad station, educational buildings and several residences as well. His style was a fusion of French, Italian and Spanish Romanesque features. After his death, His successors completed many projects undertaken by Richardson in his Richardsonian style.
In 1872, Richardson designed the Trinity Church, Boston, Massachusetts which is the most acclaimed work of Henry designed in Richardsonian-Romanesque style. It is a Parish of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts. It’s involved in worship services and also in the services to Communities, children programs, and Christian education. The Trinity Church is also the home to many choirs including the Trinity Choir and is remarked as a landmark of Boston City.
He built many libraries in Massachusetts among which The Thomas Crane Public Library in Quincy, Massachusetts (1880) is regarded as the best library of Richardson’s Career. Its design is a preservation of culture and offered clearly defined spaces that had easy and natural circulation and were visually memorable.
In 1881, Richardson designed the nine Railroad Station building for Boston and Albany Railroad. Their design was inspired by the Japanese architectural style. In 1881, Richardson’s style was well illustrated in the Old Colony Station in Easton, Massachusetts where he used the Syrian arch and also included a curved dragon at each end of the beam spanning the arches of windows.
In 1883, Henry Hobson Richardson constructed another big and successful project The Chestnut Hill Station in Newton, Massachusetts which was less influenced by Japanese architecture but featured more clear lines. In 1885, Richardson had his most notable design of urban commercial in form of The Marshall Field Wholesale Store in Chicago that was later demolished in 1930. It is one of the most significant and famous Richardson’s Building that influenced many other architects including
It is one of the most significant and famous Richardson’s Building that influenced many other architects including Frank Lloyd Wright and Louis Sullivan. The building had the usage of high multi-storied windows topped by arches and was a simple and a unified solid design occupying the entire block.
Other major projects of Richardson included New York State Asylum, Buffalo, New York (1869) which was the largest building of his career and had a characteristic style; Sever Hall, Harvard University (1880), Austin Hall in 1882 had the brickwork on walls, roof, and windows.
After Richardson’s death in 1886, His successor firm built the Wellesley Farms Railroad Station which was specifically penalized for its similarity with The Eliot station in Newton, Massachusetts which was torn down in the 1950s.
Awards & Honors
In 1870, Richardson won a design competition for the Brattle Square Church in Boston.
In 1872, He won the Design competition for the Trinity Church, Boston.
Henry Hobson Richardson died on April 27, 1886, at the age of 47 in Brookline, Massachusetts, US. His death was due to Bright’s disease which is commonly called Chronic Nephritis- a kidney disorder. He selected three of his assistants (Shepley, Rutan, Coolidge) as his aforementioned successors which carried on his business. In his last days, Richardson was at the peak of his career with various significant buildings in progress in Boston, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Ohio, St. Louis and Cincinnati which he left to his successors to finish. He was buried in the Walnut Hills Cemetery in Brookline, Massachusetts.