John Wood, the Younger
The father-son architecture duo of John Wood the Elder and John Wood the Younger formed the neoclassical cityscape which still characterizes Bath today. Wood the Elder was particularly fond of architecture drawing from ancient Greek and Roman styles (with a dash of Masonic symbolism thrown in) and wanted to transform Bath accordingly. Wood the Younger elected to carry on this ambitious building project after his father’s death, and the Royal Crescent is perhaps his greatest work to this end. A prime example of Georgian architecture,1the Royal Crescent is one solid block of 30 townhouses facing nearby Victoria Park. While the exteriors are all uniform, each individual owner was left to transform the interiors as he/she wished – meaning that despite the facade, none of the townhouses are the same inside.
Like an optical illusion, the Royal Crescent boggles the mind when we see it. I feel that we have stepped into a scene from Inception, where the street bends in upon itself, the buildings themselves turning concave. And yet when we look at the pieces individually, each morphs back into a staid Georgian townhouse, perfectly proportioned with its columns and curtained windows. It is easy to mess with the brain by doing this: look at the part, and then the whole, until eventually I begin to suspect even the streetlamps are somehow subtly curved. At this point the grassy park behind us comes into focus, a perfect refuge from which to admire the grandeur of the block without going cross-eyed.
Photo: Bath, England / April 2016
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