One of the most famous Gothic Revival structures, Elizabeth Tower sits at the Palace of Westminster in London.

Architectural revivalism is the use of elements that echo the style of a previous architectural era that have or had fallen into disuse or abeyance between their heyday and period of revival. Revivalism, in a narrower sense, refers to the period of and movement within Western architectural history during which a succession of antecedent and reminiscent styles were taken to by architects, roughly from the late 18th century, and which was itself succeeded by Modernism. Notable revival styles include Neoclassical architecture (a revival of Classical architecture), and Gothic Revival (a revival of Gothic architecture). Revivalism is related to historicism.

Western architecture of the 19th century, including Victorian architecture, is an example of Revivalism.


19th-early 20th centuries

The Russian Revival-representing Uspenski Cathedral from 1868 in Katajanokka, Helsinki, Finland

The idea that architecture might represent the glory of kingdoms can be traced to the dawn of civilisation, but the notion that architecture can bear the stamp of national character is a modern idea, that appeared in the historical and philosophical writing of the 18th century and was given political currency in the wake of the French Revolution. As the map of Europe was repeatedly changing, architecture was used to grant the aura of a glorious past to even the most recent of nations. In addition to the credo of universal Classicism, two new, and often contradictory, attitudes on historical styles existed in the early 19th century. Pluralism promoted the simultaneous use of the expanded range of style, while Revivalism held that a single historical model was appropriate for modern architecture. Associations between styles and building types appeared, for example: Egyptian for prisons, Gothic for churches, or Renaissance Revival for banks and exchanges.[citation needed] These choices were the result of other associations: the pharaohs with death and eternity, the Middle Ages with Christianity, or the Medici family with the rise of banking and modern commerce.

Whether their choice was Classical, medieval, or Renaissance, all Revivalists shared the strategy of advocating a particular style based on national history, one of the great enterprises of historians in the early 19th century. Only one historic period was claimed to be the only one capable of providing models grounded in national traditions, institutions, or values. Issues of style became matters of state.[1]

The most well-known Revivalist style is the Gothic Revival one, that appeared in the mid-18th century in the houses of a number of wealthy antiquarians in England, a notable example being the Strawberry Hill House. German Romantic writers and architects were the first to promote Gothic as a powerful expression of national character, and in turn use it as a symbol of national identity in territories still divided. Johann Gottfried Herder posed the question 'Why should we always imitate foreigners, as if we were Greeks or Romans?'.[2]


Modern-day revival styles are frequently placed under the heading of New Classical architecture. Revivalism is not to be confused with complementary architecture, which looks to the previous architectural styles as means of architectural continuity.



Typical historicist house: Gründerzeit building by Arwed Roßbach in Leipzig, Germany (built in 1892)

Ancient Revival

1862 lithograph of the Aegyptischer Hof (English: Egyptian court), from the Neues Museum (Berlin), built in the Neo-Egyptian style

Medieval Revival

St. Michael the Archangel Church in Kaunas was built in Neo-Byzantine style
Schwerin Palace, historical ducal seat of Mecklenburg, Germany – an example of pompous renaissance revival for representation purposes (built in 1857)

Renaissance Revival

Opera, Paris (Palais Garnier) by Charles Garnier, 1861–1875

Baroque Revival

Other revival


  1. ^ Bergdoll, Barry (200). European Architecture 1750–1890. Oxford University Press. p. 139, 140, 141. ISBN 978-0-19-284222-0.
  2. ^ Bergdoll, Barry (200). European Architecture 1750–1890. Oxford University Press. p. 139, 140, 141, 142, 145. ISBN 978-0-19-284222-0.

Further reading