From Preliminary Discourse before the University College of London 1842

T. L. Donaldson was among the third contingent of British architects to visit Italy and Greece between 1818 and 1823, and he became a brilliant draftsman in recording his visions of the classical past. In 1834 he was the motivating force in the creation of the Institute of British Architects (later Royal Institute of British Architects), which was committed to upgrading the profession of architecture. In his architectural practice - if we may judge from his competition design for the Royal Exchange (1839) - Donaldson inclined more toward a Roman vision of classicism. But Donaldson at the same time was quite influential as a teacher. In 1842 he became the first professor of construction and architecture at University College, London, where he taught for 23 years. This brief excerpt from his inaugural lecture of 1842 reveals him to be an eclectic in the spirit of Hope, acknowledging that his age demanded experimentation and an amalgamation of styles.

Styles in Architecture may be compared to languages in literature. There is no style, as there is no language, which has not its peculiar beauties, its individual fitness and power - there is not one that can be safely rejected. A principle reins in each, which the Architect may hap[pi]ly apply with peculiar propriety on some emergency. And as the traveller, who is master of several languages, finds himself at home and at ease among the people with whose language he is familiar, so the Architect is more fitted for the emergencies of his difficult career, who can command the majesty of the classic styles, the sublimity of the Gothic, the grace of the revival or the brilliant fancies of the Arabic. And to pursue the analogy still further, as no scholar can fully master a language, who is not familiar with the literature and manners and religion of the people, so no Architect can fully appreciate any style, who knows not the history of the country, and the habits of thought, the intelligence, and customs of the nation.

Thomas Leverton Donaldson (1795-1885), from "Preliminary Discourse Pronounced before the University College of London, upon the Commencement of a Series of Lectures on Architecture" (1842).

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