Nikolaus Pevsner

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Blue plaque erected in 2007 by English Heritage at 2 Wildwood Terrace, Hampstead, London

Sir Nikolaus Bernhard Leon Pevsner (30 January 190218 August 1983) was a German-British art historian and architectural historian best known for his monumental 46-volume series of county-by-county guides, The Buildings of England (1951–74).


  • A bicycle shed is a building; Lincoln Cathedral is a piece of architecture. Nearly everything that encloses space on a scale sufficient for a human being to move in is a building; the term architecture applies only to buildings designed with a view to aesthetic appeal.
    • An Outline of European Architecture (Harmondsworth: Penguin, [1942] 1957), p. 23.
  • It was perhaps a bad moment to undertake an architectural guide to the City of London. There are, at the time of writing, still whole areas lying waste after bombing in the Second World War. A number of the City churches, also, are not yet repaired or restored. Yet the publication of this volume was much asked for; so I decided to undertake it in spite of these disadvantages.
  • The great importance of Wilbury House [in Wiltshire] lies less in its appearance now than in its appearance as it was first built and illustrated in Vitruvius Britannicus. It was designed by and built for William Benson in 1710. He is notorious for having been made Wren's successor in 1718, when George I dismissed Wren as a Tory and an old man, and for having failed so completely that he himself was replaced only one year later. But he is memorable as the designer of the first, not Neo-Palladian, but neo-Inigo-Jones house in England. For this is what Wilbury was, as Sir John Summerson was the first to point out. The house then had a four-column Corinthian portico of tall columns set well away from the wall.


  • Pevsner's career is a prism through which to view the world of art history as it developed in England in the middle of the twentieth century.
    • Susie Harries, "Nikolaus Pevsner: The Life" (2011), page ix
  • Pevsner was very much the German bourgeois Jew - a certain amount of austerity and not a lot of giggles.
    • Susie Harries, "Nikolaus Pevsner: The Life" (2011), page 663
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