The architecture produced between 1700 and 1800 represents a classic perfection which no later age has equaled. The first half of the eighteenth century was pervaded by the spirit of the Baroque, epitomized most completely in palaces and churches: Schonbrunn in Vienna, the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg, the dazzling theatrical churches and Residenzes of Germany and Central Europe. After 1750 architecture turned away from Baroque toward Neo-classicism, whose most characteristic types included private houses, institutional buildings and planned towns--Bath, Philadelphia and Washington, with their theaters, museums, hospitals and banks. Summerson provides a succinct and elegant summary of the entire period, bringing into focus not only the stunning beauty of these buildings, but also the background of ideas from which they sprang.
Architectural historian Sir John Summerson, professor of fine art in Britain and curator for 39 years at Sir John Soane's Museum describes the rise of neoclassicism after 1750. Making the point that the transition from Baroque was marked by ``a plurality of styles,'' Summerson goes on to provide a historical context for the changeover, examines town-planning and looks at individual buildingsmuseums, libraries, prisons, theaters and banks. In the concluding chapter he discerns the echoes of Versailles in Washington, D.C., which he judges ``the one great triumph of urban planning in 18th century America.'' Some 174 illustrations, consisting of plans, photographs and drawings, embellish this satisfying summary of the period. (February)