Most architectural history is written for historians and academics. The Chimni Wiki offers architectural history for the homeowner, combining it with building & maintenance information, media references, book recommendations and legal/regulatory advice in a living compendium of housing information.
Whatever type of home you live in, from 'Georgian terrace' to'1930s Semi', we want you to understand how your home came to be designed the way it is; what the influences were; and who lived there in the past while celebrating it as your family home. Most importantly we want to help you maintain and improve it with sensitivity to its history. A Chimni wiki page should answer your immediate questions, while tempting you to dig a little further. Sometimes this may be onto another Chimni page, but other times this may be onto one of the wonderful other sources we have found on the web, or towards books and authors that have entranced us.
Our key goal is writing for homeowners like ourselves and we try never to sound academic. It is unashamedly populist and accessible and is intended to entertain as much as inform. While we have tried never to compromise on accuracy, Chimni doesn’t attempt to be exhaustive or definitive. We attempt to tease the homeowner into further exploration and to point them at the wonderful books and online sources where exhaustive, academic, definitive work can be found.
Let's give you an example - our entry on the humble Acanthus leaf. A historian will tell you that the humble Acanthus leaf is the primary decorative motif on the Corinthian capitals atop the columns of a Roman temple and countless classical buildings through the ages. However, it also appears as a decorative motif in Victorian and Edwardian housebuilding and decoration. It appears as a stone carving on pilaster columns next to people's front doors all over the UK. The classical and domestic uses are linked, and both are tremendously interesting. However, an architectural historian will write about the first and barely give a nod to the second. At Chimni its the other way round.
We start with the house and work back. We want to talk about why Acanthus leaves appear on top of columns on a house in Clapham (see picture above),and where else they may appear in our homes (eg on the beautiful William Morris wallpaper shown). We also care about the very human story of the immigrant stone and plaster workers who made them in great numbers for British houses. Most importantly, we want to show how the current home-owner can restore and maintain them as part of a living 21C home.
On architects, we like esoteric ones, or those who have built important houses, but we tend to focus on those who have built mass housing, or expansive streets and squares where most of our readers will live.
We are also shamelessly wedded to how houses and housing appear in the popular media. For most of us it can be more rewarding and informative to see a 1930s house used in an episode of Poirot, or Midsomer Murders than to read about it in Pevsner (See Homes Used In Poirot Episodes). We also attempt to light-heartedly skewer many of the architectural conundrums that occupy building historians withe discussions on building styles (See Is My House 'Georgian Anglo-Palladian Classical'?).
There will be lots of other sources that go into any particular subject in a lot more detail, and where possible, we have given links to them and recommended the ones that the Chimni team believe to be good. We have tried to write about building history in a way that is accessible to the average householder, while giving pointers to those those who want to delve further. The Chimni Wiki is an affectionate guide to the houses and homes of the UK.