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27 January 1814 17 September 1879
French architect and theorist, famous for his interpretive "restorations" of medieval buildings.
Born in Paris, he was a major Gothic Revival architect.
Strongly contrary to the prevailing Beaux-Arts architectural trend of his time, much of his design work was largely derided by his contemporaries.
He saw French Gothic as the model for a national style, emphasizing its constructional rationalism and, in so doing, for the first time formulating the equation between aesthetics and technique that would be fundamental to modern architecture of the 20th century.
expresses the academic neoclassical architectural style taught at the cole des Beaux-Arts in Paris.
Depended on sculptural decoration along conservative modern lines, employing French and Italian Baroque and Rococo formulas combined with an impressionistic finish and realism.
Viollet-le-Duc's father was Sous-Contrleur des Services for the Tuileries, a civil servant position, book collector and arts enthusiast.
His mother conducted Friday salons from the family's home where writers such as Stendahl and Prosper Mrime gathered for readings.
His mother's brother, tienne-Jean Delcluze, "a painter in the mornings, a scholar in the evenings", was largely in charge of the young man's education.
His childhood was influenced with art and literature.
Built a barricade in the July Revolution of 1830
Refused to enter the cole des Beaux-Arts
Opted direct practical experience in the architectural offices of Jacques-Marie Huv and Achille Leclre
Early 1830s It became a popular sentiment for the restoration of medieval buildings in France.
He was commissioned by Prosper Mrime to restore the Romanesque abbey of Vzelay.
His "restorations" frequently combined historical fact with creative modification.
The Basilique Ste-Madeleine (Basilica Church of St. Mary Magdalene) in Vzelay is the largest Romanesque church in France.
During the French Revolution the ancient monastery buildings were destroyed and sold at auction. Only the basilica, cloister, and dormitory escaped demolition. After the Revolution, Vzelay stood in danger of collapse.
He supervise a massive and successful restoration, undertaken in several stages between 1840 and 1861, during which his team replaced a great deal of the weathered and vandalized sculpture.
The flying buttresses that support the nave are his.
The west front, a combination of Romanesque, Gothic and 19th-century work. Originally built around 1150 in the Romanesque style, it was given a Gothic central gable and south tower in the 13th century. Much of this was heavily restored in 1840 by Viollet-le-Duc, who also added a Romanesque-style tympanum of the Last Judgment to the central portal.
Floor plan of Vzelay shows the adjustment in vaulting between the choir and the new nave.
Black portion represents the new construction.
Central tympanum in the narthex, depicting Pentecost or the Mission of the Apostles. In the centeris Christ, inside a mandorla(almond-shaped halo). Bolts of light shoot out from Christ's hands to the apostles' heads. The inner archivolt and the lintel below are populated with the peoples of the world who will hear the message of Christ. These include, on the lintel, the "Monstrous Races" of foreign lands. This provides a fascinating insight into medieval worldviews and popular legends.
Completed in collaboration with Jacques Felix Duban (1798-1870).
The Sainte-Chapelle was requisitioned as an archival depository in 1803.
Two meters' worth of glass was removed to facilitate working light and destroyed or put on the market.
Its well-documented restoration, completed under the direction of Eugne Viollet-le-Duc in 1855, was regarded as exemplary by contemporaries and is faithful to the original drawings and descriptions of the chapel that survive.
Interestingly, the chapel incorporated a form of iron reinforcement, with two chains of hooked bars encircling the upper chapel, the main part of the structure. Further, there were iron stabilisers across the nave (with a vertical tension bar).
In the 19th century, Viollet-le-Duc restored the chapel. The current spire is his design. The slate roof is topped by a 33-meter-high (108 ft) cedar spire that was crafted but is an exact replica of the 15th century spire that previously sat atop the chapel.
In 1844, the government of King Louis-Philippe I decreed the restoration of the Paris cathedral and the construction of a sacristy.
The restoration project was given to two architects: Eugne Viollet-le-Duc and Jean-Baptiste Lassus.
In 1857, after the death of Lassus, Viollet-le-Duc was left as the sole builder.
reconstruction of the spire;
restoration of the sculptures (around fifteen sculptors, including AdolpheGeoffroy-Dechaume, would take part);
construction of the new sacristy;
installation of new windows by great master glassworkers (Alfred Grente, Louis Steinhel, Antoine Husson, Marchal de Metz, Didronthe Elder);
refurbishment of the central portal to the pre-Soufflot state;
reconstitution of part of the Treasury and the furniture;
wall paintings in the side chapels;
complete repair of the great organ.
On 31 May 1864, the cathedral was dedicated by Msgr. Darboy, archbishop of Paris.
Plan for the Renovation of a Chapel in the Nave of the Cathedral of Notre Dame, Paris.
Plan for the Renovation of a Chapel in the Nave of the Cathedral of Notre Dame, Paris.
In a number of plans, drawings and sketches, Viollet-le-Duc also made an attempt to revive gothic fittings.
Gargoyles - The monstrous animals with their fantastic or diabolical pictures set on the top of the cathedrals western tower to serve as gutters.
They were built into the ends of the gutters to drain rainwater off the roof; since the gargoyles extend far off the side of the roof, the litres of rainwater from storms fall far from the walls to prevent damage.
Viollet le Duc always signed his work with a bat, the wing structure of which most resembles the Gothic vault .
The chimeras are used as simple decorations. Most of them are on the faade, seated on a gallery, watching the people below and scanning all of Paris.
During the restoration of the cathedral, he decided to build a second spire, whose structure would be independent from the main cathedral, on an octagonal base supported by the four transept pillars.
In 1860, he entrusted the carpenter Bellu with this work. He used the 1852 two-story spire built in Orleans as a model, a clear departure from the 13th century spire. In addition, it is not a bell tower.
The spire dominates the verdigriscopper statues of the twelve apostles with the symbols of the four evangelists.
Another of Viollet-le-Duc's important projects was to restore the abbey church of Saint-Denis (1846).
In 1848 - having established himself as an active and influential figure in the Ministry of Historical Monuments - he was appointed Inspector General of Diocesan Monuments, responsible for the archeological restoration of numerous medieval buildings, including the Synod Hall at Sens (1849), Amiens Cathedral (1849), the fortifications of the southern city of Carcassonne (1852), and Saint-Sernin, Toulouse (1862).
In 1853, works began with the west and southwest walling, followed by the towers of the porte Narbonnaise and the principal entrance to the cit.
The fortifications were consolidated here and there, but the chief attention was paid to restoring the roofing of the towers and the ramparts, where Viollet-le-Duc ordered the destruction of structures that had encroached against the walls, some of them of considerable age.
Viollet-le-Duc left copious notes and drawings on his death in 1879, when his pupil Paul Boeswillwald, and later the architect Nodetcontinued the rehabilitation of Carcassonne.
The restoration was strongly criticized during Viollet-le-Duc's lifetime.
Fresh from work in the north of France, he made the error of using slates and restoring the roofs as point-free environment.
Yet, overall, Viollet-le-Duc's achievement at Carcassonne is agreed to be a work of genius, though not of the strictest authenticity.
Closer view of the pointed roofs that were added during the renovation of the Fortified Wall of Carcassonne.
Although Viollet-le-Duc initially executed his restorations in the original style of the building concerned, he soon began to add completely new elements of his own. While restoring Notre Dame Cathedral, for instance, he added a third tower, and to the fortified wall towers of Carcassonne he added a new set of pointed conical roofs, derived from the architecture of northern France.
These tactics were heavily criticized by the eminent 19th century art critic John Ruskin (1819-1900) who labelled it false and destructive.
Viollet-le-Duc however was adamant that he was perfecting, not harming, the original medieval design.
To restore an edifice is not to maintain it, repair it or remake it, it is to re-establish it in a complete state that may never have existed at a given moment. (Viollet-le-Duc)
A destruction out of which no remnants can be gathered: a destruction accompanied with false description of the thing destroyed. (John Ruskin)
All Viollet-le-Duc's original architectural designs for churches and other ecclesiastical structures were done in a Gothic style, as exemplified by the churches of Sainte-Gimer (1854-9), Nouvelle Aude (1855), Sainte-Denis-de-l'Estree (1861).
Rather surprisingly, however, nearly all of his secular buildings were modelled on Renaissance designs, including elements borrowed from Giulio Romano (1499-1546), Vignola (1507-73) and Andrea Palladio (1508-80).
Throughout his career Viollet-le-Duc made notes and drawings, not only for the buildings he was working on, but also on Romanesque, Gothic and Renaissance buildings that were to be soon demolished.
His study of medieval and Renaissance periods was not limited to architecture, but extended to furniture, clothing, musical instruments, armament, geology and so forth.
DICTIONARY OF FRENCH ARCHITECTURE from 11th to 16th Century (18541868) - Original (French) language edition, including numerous illustrations.
DICTIONARY OF FRENCH FURNISHINGS (18581870) (Dictionnaire raisonn du mobilier franais de l'poqueCarolingienne la Renaissance.)
Consisted of 16 volumes, these two treatises contained a wealth of exact structural data plus extensive design analysis, which provided the necessary intellectual impetus for the French Gothic Revival movement.
Conversations on Architecture
Viollet-le-Duc systematized his approach to architecture and architectural education, in a system radically opposed to that of the cole des Beaux-Arts, which he had avoided in his youth and despised.
In Henry Van Brunt's translation, the "Discourses on Architecture" was published in 1875, making it available to an American audience little more than a decade after its initial publication in France.
He 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.
According to him no country in Europe offered such great variety of materials adapted for building as France.
From granite to tufa, everything could be employed in masonry was to be found.
The novel system adopted will enable us to diminish the projection of the buttresses and consequently to make a saving in the foundations.
The employment of cast iron enabled us to dispense with the corbelling in courses of hard stone which was expensive and shall obtain a building that would present greater security, would be less weighty and would allow a present better circulation of air about the ground-floor.
These are illustration from his lecture XII where he talks about execution methods of simultaneously using stone, bricks and iron at the same time.
Histoire de l'habitation humaine, depuis les temps prhistoriques jusqu' nos jours (1875).
Published in English in 1876.
Viollet-Le-Duc traces the history of domestic architecture among the different "races" of mankind.
Where Viollet-le-Duc applied his ideas of rational construction to Russian architecture.
Drawing reveals that each individual fort retains the articulation of salients and angles appropriate to smaller arms and closer quarters. The efficacy of the new system was no longer in the solidity of a fixed centrepoint but in the furnishing of a territory.
In a postscript to his lesser-known
work Histoire dune Forteresse (1874),
(1814-1879) describes the diffusion
of fortifications brought about by the
introduction of ranged artillery.
He was considered to be the first theorist of modern architecture.
Sir John Summerson wrote that "there have been two supremely eminent theorists in the history of European architecture - Leon Battista Alberti and Eugne Viollet-le-Duc."
His architectural theory was largely based on finding the ideal forms for specific materials, and using these forms to create buildings.
His writings centered on the idea that materials should be used 'honestly'.
He believed that the outward appearance of a building should reflect the rational construction of the building.
In Entretiens sur l'architecture, Viollet-le-Duc praised the Greek temple for its rational representation of its construction.
For him, "Greek architecture served as a model for the correspondence of structure and appearance.
There is speculation that this philosophy was heavily influenced by the writings of John Ruskin, who championed honesty of materials as one of the seven main emphases of architecture.
In several unbuilt projects for new buildings, Viollet-le-Duc applied the lessons he had derived from Gothic architecture, applying its rational structural systems to modern building materials such as cast iron.
He also examined organic structures, such as leaves and animal skeletons, for inspiration.
He was especially interested in the wings of bats, an influence represented by his Assembly Hall project.
Viollet-le-Duc's drawings of iron trusswork were innovative for the time.
Many of his designs emphasizing iron would later influence the Art Nouveau movement, most noticeably in the work of Hector Guimard, Victor Horta, Antoni Gaud or Hendrik Petrus Berlage.
His writings inspired some American architects, including Frank Furness, John Wellborn Root, Louis Sullivan, and Frank Lloyd Wright.
Viollet-le-Duc had a second career in the military, primarily in the defence of Paris during the Franco-Prussian War (1870-1).
He was so influenced by the conflict that during his later years he described the idealized defense of France by the analogy of the military history of Le Roche-Pont, an imaginary castle, in his work Histoire d'une Forteresse(Annals of a Fortress, twice translated into English).
Accessible and well researched, it is partly fictional.
Annals of a Fortress strongly influenced French military defensive thinking.
Viollet-le-Duc's critique of the effect of artillery (applying his practical knowledge from the 18701871 war) is so complete that it accurately describes the principles applied to the defence of France until World War II.
The physical results of his theories are present in the fortification of Verdun prior to World War I and the Maginot Line prior to World War II.
His theories are also represented by the French military theory of "Deliberate Advance", such that artillery and a strong system of fortresses in the rear of an army are essential.