Designing Paris: the architecture of Duban, Labrouste, Duc, and Vaudoyer

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MIT Press, 1987 - Architecture - 338 pages
Winner, Alice Davis Hitchcock Award, Society of Architectural Historians.

Designing Paris explores the revolution in French architecture that began around 1830 under the leadership of Felix Duban, Henri Labrouste, Louis Duc, and Leon Vaudoyer. It shows how these four architects dominated their profession during the Monarchy of July and the Second Empire of Napoleon III, producing works of elasticity and brilliance not often associated with modern notions of the French Classical tradition, works in which they sought simultaneously to trace the historical evolution of architecture and to explore rational innovations in structure.

This reconciliation of historicism and rationalism, Van Zanten observes, bore fruit in the design and construction of public monuments of great individuality, subtlety, and complexity. These became the generative elements of the city of Paris itself as it was transformed during the middle of the nineteenth century, giving rise to the "Beaux-Arts" system of training and design that spread from Paris to the world at large, and to the professional definition of the architect as a public servant.

The buildings from the years of the Monarchy 6 of July (1830-1848) that are discussed and illustrated in detail are Duban's designs for the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Labrouste's Bibliotheque Sainte-Genevieve, and Vaudoyer's Conservatoire des Arts et Metiers.

Three of the monuments that were erected during the Second Empire of Napoleon III (who was overthrown in 1870) are the subject of the book's final chapters: Vaudoyer's Marseilles Cathedral, the only cathedral erected in France in the nineteenth century; Duc's Palais de justice on the Ile de la Cite, one of the centerpieces of Haussmann's Paris; and Labrouste's Bibliotheque Nationale, widely regarded as the most conceptu ally innovative work of this generation.

Designing Paris discusses the professional, political, and cultural contexts of these great public monuments and examines their relation to the works of such figures as Charles Gamier and Eugene-Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc.

David Van Zanten is Professor of Art History at Northwestern University.

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Designing Paris: the architecture of Duban, Labrouste, Duc, and Vaudoyer

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This book by a well-known authority represents a major contribution to our knowledge of 19th-century French academic architecture. Readably and reliably, it details the design and construction of six ... Read full review


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About the author (1987)

Van Zanten teaches the history of architecture and urbanism in the Art History department of Northwestern University.

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