Industrial Revolution

What late 19th Century developments were there in Western Architecture?

Western Architecture has had a big influence over other construction styles elsewhere in the world. It has proven to be fairly fluid over the years, evolving and developing with industry and as resources have changed. The late 19th century was a particularly important moment in Western architectural development as it was at this time that construction in iron and glass really started to take off.

The impact of the industrial revolution

As industry went into overdrive in Britain the availability of new materials for construction opened up a wealth of possibilities for building higher and making architecture stronger but more versatile. Marshall, Benyou, and Bage’s flour mill in Shropshire was one of the first buildings to be constructed using an iron frame. There were many benefits to this kind of construction, especially in an industrial context, including buildings that were fireproof thanks to the lack of timber involved. As well as factories and mills, iron frame buildings were also used in:


Glass also became another very available construction material towards the end of the 19th century, enabling epic conservatories to be built, such as the Palm House at Kew Gardens.

Public buildings

Many of the late 19th century public buildings benefitted from the availability of iron and glass, including the British Museum, which had concealed cast-iron beams.


These new materials also enabled a different approach to markets – now designers could create iron-and-glass umbrellas over stalls as protection from the elements, such as Victor Baltard’s Halles Centrales in Paris.

Glasshouses and porches

Creativity was fuelled in more domestic and retail design too as buildings made entirely from glass could now be constructed, as well as design-led porches. The Coal Exchange in London was a particularly decorative example of what could be done in construction at this time with ornamental iron balconies and a delicate dome of iron and glass.

Commercial buildings

Developments in iron and glass were less noticeable in the US but many commercial buildings were now being constructed with cast iron columns and arches, such as Harper Brothers Building in New York City.

Railway stations

Some of Britain’s most iconic railway station designs came courtesy of the revolution in iron and glass production. Kings Cross St Pancras, for example, was designed with wrought-iron arches with a span of 243 feet.

Taller buildings

Construction all over the world was suffering from the limitations of masonry but developments in architecture at this time enabled a key evolution – cast-iron columns sheathed in masonry and wrought-iron beams, which marked the start of the widespread use of a metal frame.

The Eiffel Tower

This iconic building was perhaps one of the most prominent examples of iron and glass construction during this time. Built during 1887–89 by Gustav Eiffel it remains one of the most famous illustrations of innovative design to this day.

The mass production of iron and glass changed construction in the late 19th century. At RG Group we believe evolution in architecture is an ongoing process and we’re always keen to stay on top of developments.

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Our team of construction expects at The RG Group specialises in a wide range of projects from retail through to living space, so whatever your requirements, why not give us a call on 01732 526 850 today to see how we can help?

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