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Pierre-François-Henri Labrouste


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French architect, he studied under A. -L. -T. Vaudoyer and L. -H. Lebas, and then at the French Academy in Rome, where he mixed with the future leaders of the profession in France. His theoretical reconstruction (though based on accurate site-surveys) of the Doric temples at Paestum (1829) was described later by Viollet-le-Duc as a ‘revolution on several folio sheets of paper’ because it proposed a re-ordering of the accepted historical sequence of the temples and suggested that the architectural type was adapted to new environmental, social, and political conditions in a colonial setting, thereby upsetting the accepted opinions of French academics. Indeed, this work (which included the application of colour) is considered to be a watershed in French architecture, heralding a new order to challenge the supremacy of Classicism. When he returned to Paris he opened an atelier (architectural studio and office) in 1830 which promoted rationalist ideas. His reputation rests on his Bibliothèque Ste-Geneviève, Paris (1838–50), a superbly clear design in which an elegant iron structure seems to have been slotted into the cage of masonry: it was one of the first monumental (rather than utilitarian) public buildings to have an exposed iron frame. The masonry exterior is a powerful Cinquecento essay employing a range of semicircular-headed windows to illuminate the great library space, but it has mnemonic aspects too, for there are allusions to Alberti's Tempio Malatestiano, Rimini, Sansovino's Biblioteca Marciano, Venice, and Wren's Trinity College Library, Cambridge. The Bibliothèque placed him in the highest echelons of French Government architects, and between 1854 and 1875 he created the iron-and-glass interior of the Reading-Room at the Bibliothèque Nationale, Rue Richelieu, Paris, and built the stack-rooms, again employing iron. He published his work on Paestum in 1877, and designed several other buildings, including tombs in Montmartre and Montparnasse Cemeteries, Paris.

His brother, François-Marie-Théodore (1799–1885), was also an architect, again trained under Vaudoyer and Lebas. He was architect-in-chief to the hospitals of Paris in succession to Gau from 1845.

Drexler (ed.) (1977);Hitchcock (1977);H. Labrouste (1877);L. Labrouste (1885, 1902);Middleton and Middleton & Watkin (1987);Millet (1882);Saddy (1977);Jane Turner (1996);van Zanten (1977, 1987)

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