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The French Academic





Context Post Renaissance

Baroque Era - beginning 1600 A.D.
Neo Classicism / 1750 1900
French Academic Tradition
Decline of Neoclassicism
Nineteenth Century Concepts
Gothic Revival - Structural Rationalism
The industrial revolution

Like painting, Renaissance architecture was

inspired by the Classical.

The architecture reflects the philosophy of
Humanism, the enlightenment and clarity
of mind as opposed to the darkness and
spirituality of the Middle Ages.

The Architects of the Baroque Era were intent

on extending the horizon of their sources of

inspiration beyond the Classical, and sought
artistic freedom.
new emphasis was placed on bold massing,
colonnades, domes, light-and-shade
(chiaroscuro), 'painterly' color effects, and the
bold play of volume and void.

Francois Mansart's Chateau de


As an assault on orthodox Renaissance

conventions, Baroque Architecture also

tended toward what was in many respects
a stricter geometrical and scientific
determinism - experimentation with form
and a greater emphasis on a geometric
approach to design.

Church of St.Mary, Venice




Typical Baroque Exterior

Neoclassical architecture and

the influence of antiquity
In architecture, neoclassicism was the

dominant style in Europe during 1750s1850s, marked by the imitation of GrecoRoman forms. Classical architectural models
were adapted or referenced in a range of
architectural forms, including churches,
arches, temple, house, terraces, garden
monuments and interior designs. Later,
Neoclassical architecture became an
international style, each country held some
distinct characteristic in their style.

Altes Museum,
Circus at Bath

Petit Trianon

Neoclassical, or "new" classical,

architecture describes buildings that are

inspired by the classical architecture of
ancient Greece and Rome.
The over-elaboration of architectural
language in the Baroque era led to the
search by architects for a true style
through a precise re-appraisal of Classical
Design Tenets. Their motivation was not
simply to copy the ancients but to obey the
principles on which their work had been

Ancient Greek Architecture was studied and

emulated in terms of the qualities like

Harmony, Proportion, Rationality, Balance,
This was more than a revival, it was an
argument for a return to rational structural
principles and their expression in buildings

Zwinger Palace in Dresden

many of the first generation of neoclassical architects

received training in the classic French tradition through

a series of exhaustive and practical lectures that was
offered for decades by Jacques-Franois Blondel

Neo Classicism / Palladianism

Last phase of the Renaissance, when Ancient Greek

Architecture was studied and emulated in terms of the

qualities like Harmony, Proportion, Rationality, Balance,
The architecture of Neo-Classicism emerged out of two
different but related developments which radically
transformed the relationship between man and nature.
A sudden increase in mans capacity to control nature due to

technical advances of the Industrial Revolution

A fundamental shift in the nature of human consciousness, in
response to major changes taking place in society, resulting in a
new cultural formation that was equally appropriate to the life
styles of the declining aristocracy and the rising bourgeoisie.

Neo Classicism was more than a revival; it was an

argument for a return to rational structural principles

and their expression in buildings


The Capitol, WashingtonD.C.

Fanueil Hall

Massachusetts State

Low Library, New York

Mount Vernon,

French Academic Tradition

Chiefly articulated by
Jacques Francois Blondel
Claude Perrault
The founding of the Royal Academy of
Architecture in Paris in 1671 can be taken as
the starting point of modern European theory
and practice. The purpose of the Academy
was to codify the principles of Classical
Design and to espouse them in practice.
Symbolically, the new academy represented,
in line with the political and cultural
ascendancy of France, a declaration of
independence from the Renaissance tradition.

Claude Perrault


Jean Nicolas Louis Durand

Jean Baptiste Rondelet

In response to the perceived architectural

excesses of the baroque period, the

academys foundation reflected the tendency
to provide a nationally sanctioned forum for
the consolidation and rational reinterpretation
of traditional conventions.
The question of whether contemporary culture
could match or even exceed classical
accomplishments led to the re-evaluation of
Vitruvius and Renaissance theory.

French Academic Theory

The theoretical developments that attended the

emergence of Neo-Classicism in France were chiefly

articulated by Perrault & Blondel.
Claude Perrault questioned the validity of the Classical
Vitruvian proportions to his time as these had been
received and refined through Classical theory.
Instead, he elaborated his thesis of positive beauty and
arbitrary beauty, giving to the former the normative
role of standardization and perfection and to the latter
such expressive function as may be required by a
particular circumstance or character.
Jacques Francois Blondel, after opening his
architectural school in Rue de la Harpe in 1743 became
the master of a visionary generation of architects
Blondels preoccupation was an appropriate
physiognomy to accord with the varying social
character of different building types.

Jean Baptiste Rondelet

French theory took a new direction in the

nineteenth century when Jean Baptiste

Rondelet, famed for saving the collapsing
church of Ste. Genevieve in Paris (now the
Pantheon) published his volume Traite
theorique et pratique de lart de batir, a work
that is remarkable simply because it contains
almost no theoretical discussion.
Rondelet was one of the first modern architects
to argue that the art of building should emulate
the science of engineering, that was based on
the principles of mathematics and physics.

Jean Nicolas Louis Durand

Jean Nicolas Louis Durand taught a course

on architecture at the Ecole Polytechnique

which was without academic precedent.
The classical Orders, he argued, were not
the essence of architecture; rules for
proportion should be derived from the
nature of the material and its use.
Convenience, rather than beauty, was the
reason for making architecture, thus the
architect had two problems to solve : how to
design and build a private building with the
greatest convenience within a given budget;
and how to design and build a public edifice
with the greatest possible economy.

Durand sought to establish a universal

building method by the application of a

normative building typology with which
economic and appropriate structures could
be created through the modular permutation
of fixed plan types and alternative
elevations- an interchangeable typology of
compositional parts that could be assembled
or organized in various combinations.
Durands compositional methodology proved
to be enormously influential throughout
Europe, especially in Germany. Economic
factors, such as the injunction that
maximum floor area be obtained with
minimum perimeter construction, became
the overriding criteria of design.

Decline of Neoclassicism
During the second half of the 18th century
the the interaction of a number of a number
of unprecedented technical developments
and socio-economic forces gave rise to a
new context. In the space of a century the
finite city was totally transformed.
The rapid decline of Neoclassicism was due
to a progressive functionalism propelled by
technological developments of fireproof
construction, gas lighting, central heat and
ventilation, and exposed cast-iron structure.