Not often is a building style associated with a specific individual, and yet Richardsonian Romanesque reflects one architect’s distinctive intertwining of different veins of architectural thought to form a unique language. This person was Henry Hobson Richardson, a Louisiana-born architect educated at Harvard and the École des Beaux-Arts, whose 1872 design for Boston’s Trinity Church marked his emphatic arrival on the national architectural stage.
Richardson’s approach merged a Beaux Arts organizational rationale with an appreciation of color, structure, and material honesty inspired by the English theorist John Ruskin and the concurrent Ruskinian Gothic. Though varying according to program and site, buildings of this style feature cohesive singular massing derived from the building’s function, unifying roof forms, and colorful palettes of contrasting stone. Many of Richardson's local contemporaries and successors adopted the style, particularly Henry Van Brunt and Arthur Vinal, yielding a rich collection of examples throughout the Boston area.
Some of Richardson’s contemporaries followed a more traditional revival of Romanesque forms for religious and historicist reasons, yielding a collection of buildings more properly categorized as Romanesque Revival.
Image: © Peter Vanderwarker 2014