Étienne-Louis Boullée

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Étienne-Louis Boullée
Born12 February 1728
Died4 February 1799(1799-02-04) (aged 70)
OccupationArchitect
Practice Neoclassicalism
Buildings Hôtel Alexandre
Boullee, Deuxieme projet pour la
Bibliotheque du Roi (1785) Bibliotheque nationale boul.jpg
Boullée, Deuxieme projet pour la
Bibliothèque du Roi
(1785)

Étienne-Louis Boullée (12 February 1728 – 4 February 1799) was a visionary French neoclassical architect whose work greatly influenced contemporary architects.

France Republic with mainland in Europe and numerous oversea territories

France, officially the French Republic, is a country whose territory consists of metropolitan France in Western Europe and several overseas regions and territories. The metropolitan area of France extends from the Mediterranean Sea to the English Channel and the North Sea, and from the Rhine to the Atlantic Ocean. It is bordered by Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany to the northeast, Switzerland and Italy to the east, and Andorra and Spain to the south. The overseas territories include French Guiana in South America and several islands in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans. The country's 18 integral regions span a combined area of 643,801 square kilometres (248,573 sq mi) and a total population of 67.3 million. France, a sovereign state, is a unitary semi-presidential republic with its capital in Paris, the country's largest city and main cultural and commercial centre. Other major urban areas include Lyon, Marseille, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Lille and Nice.

Neoclassicism Western art movements that draw inspiration from the "classical" art and culture of Ancient Greece or Ancient Rome

Neoclassicism is the name given to Western movements in the decorative and visual arts, literature, theatre, music, and architecture that draw inspiration from the "classical" art and culture of classical antiquity. Neoclassicism was born largely thanks to the writings of Johann Joachim Winckelmann, at the time of the rediscovery of Pompeii and Herculaneum, but its popularity spread all over Europe as a generation of European art students finished their Grand Tour and returned from Italy to their home countries with newly rediscovered Greco-Roman ideals. The main Neoclassical movement coincided with the 18th-century Age of Enlightenment, and continued into the early 19th century, laterally competing with Romanticism. In architecture, the style continued throughout the 19th, 20th and up to the 21st century.

Architect person trained to plan and design buildings, and oversee their construction

An architect is a person who plans, designs and reviews the construction of buildings. To practice architecture means to provide services in connection with the design of buildings and the space within the site surrounding the buildings that have human occupancy or use as their principal purpose. Etymologically, architect derives from the Latin architectus, which derives from the Greek, i.e., chief builder.

Contents

Life

Hotel de Brunoy, ca. 1780 Hotel de Brunoy.jpg
Hôtel de Brunoy, ca. 1780

Born in Paris, he studied under Jacques-François Blondel, Germain Boffrand and Jean-Laurent Le Geay, from whom he learned the mainstream French Classical architecture in the 17th and 18th century and the Neoclassicism that evolved after the mid century. He was elected to the Académie Royale d'Architecture in 1762 and became chief architect to Frederick II of Prussia, a largely honorary title. He designed a number of private houses from 1762 to 1778, though most of these no longer exist; notable survivors into the modern era include the Hôtel de Brunoy (demolished in 1930) and the Hôtel Alexandre, both in Paris. His work for François Racine de Monville has apparently also vanished but his probable influence on Monville's own architectural works as seen at the Désert de Retz speaks for itself. Together with Claude Nicolas Ledoux, he was one of the most influential figures of French neoclassical architecture.

Paris Capital of France

Paris is the capital and most populous city of France, with an area of 105 square kilometres and an official estimated population of 2,140,526 residents as of 1 January 2019. Since the 17th century, Paris has been one of Europe's major centres of finance, commerce, fashion, science, and the arts.

Jacques-François Blondel French architect

Jacques-François Blondel was an 18th-century French architect and teacher. After running his own highly successful school of architecture for many years, he was appointed Professor of Architecture at the Académie Royale d'Architecture in 1762, and his Cours d'architecture largely superseded a similarly titled book published in 1675 by his famous namesake, François Blondel, who had occupied the same post in the late 17th century.

Germain Boffrand French architect

Germain Boffrand was a French architect. A pupil of Jules Hardouin-Mansart, Germain Boffrand was one of the main creators of the precursor to Rococo called the style Régence, and in his interiors, of the Rococo itself. In his exteriors he held to a monumental Late Baroque classicism with some innovations in spatial planning that were exceptional in France His major commissions, culminating in his interiors at the Hôtel de Soubise, were memorialised in his treatise Livre d'architecture, published in 1745, which served to disseminate the French "Louis XV" style throughout Europe.

Geometric style

It was as a teacher and theorist at the École Nationale des Ponts et Chaussées between 1778 and 1788 that Boullée made his biggest impact, developing a distinctive abstract geometric style inspired by Classical forms. His work was characterised by the removal of all unnecessary ornamentation, inflating geometric forms to a huge scale and repeating elements such as columns in huge ranges.

For Boullée regularity, symmetry and variety were the golden rules of architecture.

Cenotaph for Sir Isaac Newton

Boullee, Cenotaphe a Newton (1784) Newton memorial boullee.jpg
Boullée, Cénotaphe à Newton (1784)

Boullée promoted the idea of making architecture expressive of its purpose, a doctrine that his detractors termed architecture parlante ("talking architecture"), which was an essential element in Beaux-Arts architectural training in the later 19th century. His style was most notably exemplified in his proposal for a cenotaph for the English scientist Isaac Newton, [1] who 50 years after his death became a symbol of Enlightenment ideas. [2] The building itself was a 150 m (500 ft) tall sphere, taller than the Great Pyramids of Giza, [3] encompassed by two large barriers circled by hundreds of cypress trees. Though the structure was never built, [4] Boullée had many ink and wash drawings engraved and circulated widely in the professional circles in 1784. [5] A cenotaph is a funerary monument celebrating a figure interred elsewhere. The small sarcophagus for Newton is placed at the lower pole of the sphere. The design of the memorial creates the effect of day and night. The night effect occurs when the sarcophagus is illuminated by the sunlight coming through the holes in the vaulting. This gives the illusion of stars in the night sky. The day effect is an armillary sphere hanging in the center that gives off a mysterious glow. Thus, the use of light in the building's design causes the building's interior to change its appearance. [6]

Architecture parlante

Architecture parlante is architecture that explains its own function or identity.

Beaux-Arts architecture expresses the academic neoclassical architectural style

Beaux-Artsarchitecture was the academic architectural style taught at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, particularly from the 1830s to the end of the 19th century. It drew upon the principles of French neoclassicism, but also incorporated Gothic and Renaissance elements, and used modern materials, such as iron and glass. It was an important style in France until the end of the 19th century. It also had a strong influence on architecture in the United States, because of the many prominent American architects who studied at the Beaux-Arts, including Henry Hobson Richardson, John Galen Howard, Daniel Burnham, and Louis Sullivan.

Cenotaph "empty tomb" or monument erected in honor of a person whose remains are elsewhere

A cenotaph is an empty tomb or a monument erected in honour of a person or group of people whose remains are elsewhere. It can also be the initial tomb for a person who has since been reinterred elsewhere. Although the vast majority of cenotaphs honour individuals, many noted cenotaphs are instead dedicated to the memories of groups of individuals, such as the lost soldiers of a country or of an empire.

Salon for the Hôtel de Tourolles

The boiseries, still often dated in the mid-1760s, were discussed in the issue of L'Avant-coureur for 21 January 1761, and so must have been carried out about 1758-59 (Eriksen 1974:298 and pl. 35). The Hôtel in the Marais district remodelled for Claude-Charles-Dominique Tourolle survives (the rue d'Orléans is now the rue Charlot) but the salon's boiseries and chimneypieces were removed in the mid-nineteenth century to a house in the rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré now in the possession of the Cercle Interallié. Round-arched mirrors over the chimneypieces and centering the long wall in a shallow recess are disposed in a system of stop-fluted Ionic pilasters. White marble draped caryatid therm figures support the chimneypiece's tablette. There is a full architrave under a dentilled cornice. The white-and-gold ensemble would still have been fully in style in 1790.

Hôtel Alexandre

Hotel Alexandre in 2013 Immeuble, 16 rue de la Ville-l'Eveque, Paris 2013.jpg
Hôtel Alexandre in 2013

The Hôtel Alexandre or Hôtel Soult, rue de la Ville l'Évêque, Paris (1763–1766), is the sole survivor of Boullée's residential work in Paris. It was built for the financier André-Claude-Nicolas Alexandre. [7] In its cour d'honneur four Ionic columns embedded against a recess in the wall plane create an entry (now glazed). Flanking doors in the corners of the courtyard have isolated architraves embedded in the wall above their plain openings, while above oval bull's-eye windows are draped with the swags of husks that became a common feature of the neoclassical manner. The garden front has a colossal order of pilasters raised on the high basement occupied by the full height of the ground floor.

Cour dhonneur architectural term for a three-sided courtyard

Cour d'honneur is the architectural term for a three-sided ceremonial courtyard, created by flanking the main central block, or corps de logis, with symmetrical advancing secondary wings containing minor rooms. The Palace of Versailles (illustration) and Blenheim Palace (plan) both feature such entrance courts.

Legacy

Boullée's ideas had a major influence on his contemporaries, not least because of his role in teaching other important architects such as Jean Chalgrin, Alexandre-Théodore Brongniart, and Jean-Nicolas-Louis Durand. Some of his work only saw the light of day in the 20th century; his book Architecture, essai sur l'art ("Essay on the Art of Architecture), arguing for an emotionally committed Neoclassicism, was only published in 1953. The volume contained his work from 1778 to 1788, which mostly comprised designs for public buildings on a wholly impractical grand scale.

Boullée's fondness for grandiose designs has caused him to be characterized as both a megalomaniac and a visionary. His focus on polarity (offsetting opposite design elements) and the use of light and shadow was highly innovative, and continues to influence architects to this day. He was "rediscovered" in the 20th century and has influenced recent architects such as Aldo Rossi.

Peter Greenaway's film The Belly of an Architect (1987) concerns a fictitious architect who is staging an exhibition devoted to Boullée's work. The film contains many visual references to Boullée.

Notes

  1. "AD Classics: Cenotaph for Newton / Etienne-Louis Boullée". 2014-09-10. Retrieved 2016-10-04.
  2. "AD Classics: Cenotaph for Newton / Etienne-Louis Boullée". 2014-09-10. Retrieved 2016-10-04.
  3. "AD Classics: Cenotaph for Newton / Etienne-Louis Boullée". 2014-09-10. Retrieved 2016-10-04.
  4. "AD Classics: Cenotaph for Newton / Etienne-Louis Boullée". 2014-09-10. Retrieved 2016-10-04.
  5. "AD Classics: Cenotaph for Newton / Etienne-Louis Boullée". 2014-09-10. Retrieved 2016-10-04.
  6. Adam Proctor & William Park (2016-03-16). "The memorial to Newton ghat would have eclipsed the pyramids". BBC.com. Retrieved March 21, 2016.
  7. The house passed to the marquis de Collonge, then to the maréchal Soult, from 1802 to 1818, whose name it now also sometimes bears.

Bibliography

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