Spotlight: Sir Christopher Wren

Sir Christopher Wren (20 October 1632 – 25 February 1723) is one the most significant architects in British history, and was a recognized astronomer, scholar, and physicist-mathematician. Wren was classically trained at the University of Oxford in physics and engineering where he developed his interest in architecture. He is perhaps most famous for designing London's iconic St Paul's Cathedral, however he is credited with the design of dozens of other churches, government buildings, and hospitals in England. Wren was knighted in 1673.

Portrait of Sir Christopher Wren by Sir Godfrey Kneller. Image via Wikimedia (public domain)

Wren received his first architectural commission in 1663 from his uncle, the Bishop of Ely, to design a new chapel for Pembroke College in Cambridge. After the Great Fire of London destroyed much of the city in 1666, Wren seized the opportunity to redesign the burned areas with a network of wide boulevards. His proposal was rejected, in part due to difficulties in establishing the owners of the land after such a huge disaster, but he succeeded in building 52 churches across the city, including St Paul's. Shortly thereafter, Wren was appointed surveyor of the Royal Works by King Charles II, tasked with supervising all government buildings and royal palaces in Britain.

St. Paul's Cathedral, London. Image © Flickr user locosteve licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

His career in architecture quickly took off, receiving contracts to design the Royal Observatory in Greenwich; A hospital for retired soldiers Chelsea and a hospital for sailors in Greenwich; Trinity College Library in Cambridge; and a significant rebuilding project at Hampton Court Palace in London, which was originally constructed during the reign of King Henry VIII. In addition to his work in architecture, Wren was a lecturer at University of Oxford and Gresham College, and a co-founder of the Royal Society, a prestigious organization devoted to the study of science.

The Fountain Court at Hampton Court Palace, London. Image © Wikimedia user Michal "Cronwood" Babilas licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

Wren is buried in St Paul's cathedral. In Latin, his grave reads: "If you seek his memorial, look about you."

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Cite: Finn MacLeod. "Spotlight: Sir Christopher Wren" 20 Oct 2019. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

Old Royal Navy College, Greenwich. Image © <a href=''>Flickr user nickschooley</a> licensed under <a href=''>CC BY-SA 2.0</a>


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