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date: 18 February 2020

Beaux-Arts stylelocked

  • Isabelle Gournay


Term applied to a style of classical architecture found particularly in France and the USA that derived from the academic teaching of the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Paris, during the 19th and early 20th centuries. The style is characterized by its formal planning and rich decoration. The term is also found in writings by detractors of the Ecole’s teaching methods and results: Frank Lloyd Wright, for example, called its products ‘Frenchite pastry’ (‘In the Course of Architecture’, Archit. Rec., xxiii (1908), p. 163). For Paris-trained architects, however, issues of style were in general secondary to the more permanent tenets of the doctrine put forward by the Ecole (see below).

Beaux-Arts style is at its most spectacular in large public commissions. On the main façades, monumentality is conveyed by colossal orders and coupled columns, dynamism by marked wall projections and decorative details in high relief, such as swags, garlands and medallions. Well detached from the elaborate rooflines, figure sculptures often terminate the main and secondary vertical axes. Overscaling (a device that characterizes Baroque more than classical architecture) prevents the ...

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