‘Except where herein otherwise directed’: building with legal documents in early nineteenth-century England

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The paper investigates the changes in architectural practice following the introduction of contracting in gross in early 19th century England, emphasising the role of legal documents in building. It establishes a relationship between the conditions that this form of contracting set for the production of architecture and building and the methods of describing and defining a project in advance. The paper reads the contract documents that were to be produced in the office in order to build on site as evidence for a response of architectural practice to changes in building practice. It traces this process in the adaptation of the writings of the legal documents to contracting in gross by comparing the specifications of John Soane’s building contract for Tendring Hall of 1784 with the instructions and model specifications of early 19th century handbooks and practical guides. The specific interest was in the role of these legal paper documents in the building process and the way they established, formed and transformed the social relations of building production. The paper emphasises the different writing strategies for the building specifications. It acknowledges that these documents were the products of industrial, economic and social forces, and that the forms they took resulted from their changing role in the building process. The paper finally asks what practices these material documents replaced, and how they did so. It looked at what effects their changing formats and structures, and the details of language and phrases they use, had on the processes and outcomes of building.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)238-244
Number of pages7
Journalarq: Architectural Research Quarterly
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2012


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