The Riddell of Modern Architecture: Defining the Profession in the Mid-Nineteenth Century
Architectural History and Criticism
Historic Preservation and Conservation
Urban, Community and Regional Planning
When Philadelphia architect John Riddell published his pattern book Architectural Designs for Model Country Residences in 1861, American society was in the midst of a decades-long transformation. Industrialization caused rapid growth in America’s urban centers, raised the living standard and purchasing power of a large portion of the nation’s population, and encouraged the creation of separate pockets for business and industry in the urban environment. Against this background, builders, carpenters, and other professionals involved in the construction industry witnessed a push towards professionalization as those calling themselves “architects” sought to define their design work as a distinct profession separate from the realities of construction. These architects, including Riddell, used their pattern books to demonstrate to the American public the important services that professional architects could provide in contradistinction to builders, carpenters, masons, etc. Under the influence of these pattern books, the American public became increasingly concerned with the style of their homes and how strangers viewed a homeowner based on his home. Yet, clients and patrons asserted their needs and opinions, against the advice and strong objections of “architects,” into the suburban ideal located in pattern books, thereby changing the relationship between the ideal and reality. This study uses the life, career, work, pattern book, and professional attitude of Riddell as a case study to analyze the relationship between the changes American society experienced during this period and the creation of the modern architecture profession. It shows that this crucial moment in the profession was more complex than conventional architectural histories generally recognize.