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Pugin at 200

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The prospect of "redecorating," or any other form of "home improvement," generally gets me thinking, quickly, about a lengthy research trip abroad. Yet I can, and recently did, spend several pleasant hours contemplating ceramics, furniture, and--would you believe it?--wallpaper. But not at Home Depot, I quickly add; rather, in a book--"Pugin: A Gothic Passion," published in 1994 by Yale University Press in association with London's Victoria and Albert Museum.

I dug out "Pugin"--stuck among the oversized art books in my home library for the better part of two decades--when I learned that 2012 is the bicentenary of Augustine Welby Northmore Pugin, pioneer of the Gothic Revival style and one of the aesthetic geniuses of the 19th century. Best known for his work on the Palace of Westminster (home of the Houses of Parliament), Pugin was also an ecclesiastical architect of note, with almost 50 churches to his credit. And although the Luftwaffe and the Blitz wrecked what may have been his masterwork of church design, the Cathedral of St. George in Southwark, there are still Pugin churches to be admired throughout Great Britain, Ireland and Australia.

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