Viollet le Duc, Eugène Emmanuel

French architect

Viollet le Duc is not an Art Nouveau architect, he was dead long before the movement began in the early 1890ies. He deserves a place in the Art Nouveau world wide server because his work influenced deeply many AN artists including Guimard, Gaudi, Horta and many others.
It is not as much his construction work but his theories that he exposed in many books which made his influence dramatic. I must recall before that in the 1830ies, a movement has set up to restore medieval buildings. Its manifesto was one of the most famous novel of Victor Hugo: "Notre Dame de Paris" (1831). In France, Guizot, created the National Commission for Historical Monuments and Prosper Mérimée, famous French writer but also general inspector at the national commission, made Viollet le Duc work on the restorations of Vezelay abbey and the holy Chapell (Paris) as soon as 1930. In 1844, he starts the restoration of Notre Dame which will last all his career. He got a very good understanding of gothic architecture. He was a very good drawer and his books were full of squetches. Staying at the first reading level Ruskin founded a lot of inspiration in the drawings of these books for his gothic revival movement. Two books made Viollet le Duc famous:

In those two books, he gave up the idea of a revival to study rigourosly the shapes of gothic arts in order to establish a set of principles for the 19th century architecture. He proponed the use of contemporary materials such as iron. And defined architecture as a response to a structural problem, set by functional needs. On one hand, he concluded that gothic architecture was the most effective way to build a church with stone material (maximizing the lightness and highness qualities), on the other one, iron should not be used to fake ancient shapes because these shapes that were highly efficient for stone (the best material available in the Middle ages) are definitely not for iron. Moreover, he was for the use of a decoration that renders visible the structure. Viollet le Duc has never applied his theories himself but several of his proposals for iron structures where built by AN architects later. As the school avenue de la Frilière in Paris by Guimard which used an example developped by Viollet le Duc in his "Entretients sur l'architecture" vol 1 (1858-1863) vol 2 (1863-1872).

Main restorations

©1993-2012 Frank Derville
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