Inigo Jones and the English Renaissance


Detail of Inigo Jones self-portrait

The term architect is frequently misunderstood. Too often an architect is considered someone who deals with bricks and mortar, the walls, floors and roofs of buildings. This, however, is a misconception. Often architects design all the components that make up a building – such as the lighting, fabrics and furniture – enabling the realisation of their patrons’ dreams.

Inigo Jones (1573 -1652), the first recognisable British architect, was just such a professional. His long career was characterised by variety: he designed houses, churches, interiors, theatre sets, and even costumes. As Surveyor of the King’s Works his position was privileged. Jones was court architect to James I and Charles I, two of Britain’s most style-conscious monarchs, both eager to build and celebrate the wealth of the united crown of England and Scotland. Chronologically his position was convenient. After the isolation of the Tudor monarchy, Britain came in closer contact with mainland Europe. Jones’ travels across France and Italy were timely: this was the moment for English renaissance in architecture.

Just as the term architect can be misunderstood, so too can individual architects be misrepresented. As one of the most visionary of English architects, many, especially the circle around Lord Burlington (1694 - 1753), championed Jones’ architecture, yet relatively little was known about him. Consequently, many buildings have been erroneously claimed to be his, like Lodge Park, Gloucestershire. It is therefore necessary to look carefully at Jones’ work, consider his influence, and unpick fact from myth. Only then can we fully recognise his genius.

About the online exhibition

'How We Built Britain' is a major collaboration with the BBC


Images in the exhibition are from RIBApix, a growing database dedicated to providing you with exceptional and unique images from the RIBA British Architectural Library's collections.

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