“Ruskin made even Italian Gothic respectable. So architects, Waterhouse among
them, went on their travels, and Gothic with a foreign accent became fashionable.”
Although the Natural History Museum is not a purely Gothic building, hints of it are ever
present throughout both the interior and exterior. Alfred Waterhouse, the chief architect,
initially worked for a classicist by the name of Richard Lane, but soon found himself
immersed in the works of Pugin and Ruskin and went off on his own. These influential
architects, as well as ventures to Italy, France, and Germany had such an effect on
Waterhouse that he became an enthusiastic supporter of the Gothic Revival as evidenced
in many of his works.
In 1864 Richard Fowke won an architectural competition for a new British
Museum of Natural History. Fowke was aligned to be the architect and planner of the
project but he suddenly and mysteriously passed away before blueprints were complete.
Accordingly, William Cooper approached Alfred Waterhouse in 1866 to take over the
project where Fowke had left off. Waterhouse agreed, but in the end what became of the
Natural History Museum turned out to be almost an entirely new building with
Waterhouse’s influence indubitable. Waterhouse managed to transform Fowke’s Italian
Renaissance design to a German Romanesque building with practicality in structure, self
interest in reputation, and aesthetics all in mind. Being a proponent of the Gothic Revival,
he inherently hated how the roots of Renaissance architecture lay in pagan instead of
Christian roots. The Italian Renaissance had “replaced the vitality, freedom and colour of
the Middle Ages with the tyranny of the five orders” (Girourd 31).
Well the Natural
History Museum structure, specimens alike, is full of vitality, freedom, colour, romance,
practicality, and more. He also chose the Romanesque flavor because allowed for the