By Peter Davey
The English House.
By Hermann Muthesius.
Frances Lincoln, 2007. 768pp. £125
Leaving out our own times (too close for objective judgement) Britain has scarcely ever been a world leader in architecture, except at the turn of the 19th century, when the Arts and Crafts movement and the English Free Style influenced architects from Tokyo to Toronto. This achievement (at least in domestic architecture) was brilliantly celebrated by Hermann Muthesius, an architect and attaché in the German embassy here from 1896 to 1904.
Muthesius studied a huge range of British technology and design, but his main enthusiasm was for houses, as testified by his three-volume Das Englische Haus, published in Berlin in 1904-1905. From garden gate to soap dish, it systematically analysed late-19th-century developments historically, functionally, aesthetically and technologically.