Auguste Perret in 1921
12 February 1874|
25 February 1954 (aged 80)|
|Awards||AIA Gold Medal (1952)|
Théâtre des Champs-Élysées|
St. Joseph's Church, Le Havre
French Economic, Social and Environmental Council
Église Notre-Dame du Raincy
Auguste Perret (12 February 1874 – 25 February 1954) was a French architect and a pioneer of the architectural use of reinforced concrete. His major works include the Théatre des Champs-Élysées, the first Art Deco building in Paris; the Church of Notre-Dame du Raincy (1922–23); the Mobilier Nationale in Paris (1937); and the French Economic, Social and Environmental Council building in Paris (1937–39). After World War II he designed a group of buildings in the centre of the port city of Le Havre, which had been almost entirely destroyed during the war. His reconstruction of the city is now a World Heritage Site.
Early life and experiments (1874–1912)
Auguste Perret was born in Ixelles, Belgium, where his father, a stonemason, had taken refuge after the Paris Commune. He received his early education in architecture in the family firm. He was accepted in the architecture course of the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, along with his two brothers, Gustave (1876-1952) and Claude (1880-1960). where he studied under Julien Guadet, a Beaux Arts neoclassicist who had collaborated with Charles Garnier on the construction of the Paris Opera. Beyond the neoclassical rationalism he learned from Gaudet, Perret's particular interest was the structure of buildings and the use of new materials, such as concrete. Though he was considered a brilliant student, he left school without obtaining a diploma and went to work for the family firm. 
Perret immediately began experimenting with concrete. His first important project was an apartment building on rue Franklin in Paris (1903), where the concrete structure, instead of being concealed, was clearly visible and was a part of the exterior design. He made an even more radical experiment with the construction of a garage on rue de Ponthieu (1906) (now destroyed) with a simplified cubic structure expressing the interior, large bays of windows and a lack of decoration, which resembled the later International Style.
Early works (1913-1939)
Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, Paris (1913)
Interior of the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées (1913)
Interior of the Church of Notre Dame du Raincy (1922–23)
The Chapel of Immaculate Conception in Arcueil (1930)
His most famous building was the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées a project which he took over from the Art Nouveau architect Henry van de Velde. The facade was simple and decorated only with a sculptural bas-relief by Antoine Bourdelle. The corner of the building was smooth and rounded, anticipating the Streamline Moderne style three decades later. Thanks to the use of concrete pillars, the interior lobby and the theater itself was vast and open, unobstructed by columns. The interior decoration featured works by the modernist artists of the day; a dome by Maurice Denis, paintings by Édouard Vuillard and Jacqueline Marval, and a stage curtain by Ker-Xavier Roussel.
In his later works, Perret used concrete in imaginative ways to achieve the functions of his buildings, while preserving classical harmony , symmetry and proportions. His major works included the building of the French Economic, Social and Environmental Council, originally built for the Museum of Public Works of the 1937 Paris Exposition; and the Mobilier Nationale, the national government furniture atelier in Paris. He also created innovative industrial buildings, including a warehouse in Casablanca covered with a think veil of concrete (1915); the Perret Tower, the first concrete tower for the International Exhibition of Hydropower and Tourism of Grenoble (1925), to demonstrate his "Order of Concrete"; and the church of Notre Dame du Raincy (1922-23), where the interior columns were left undecorated and the concrete vaults of the ceiling became the most prominent decorative feature. He experimented with concrete forms to achieve the best acoustics for the concert hall of the École Normale de Musique de Paris in Paris. (1929)
Later works (1945-1954)
Spire of St. Joseph's Church, Le Havre (1951-58)
In 1952 he completed construction of the Saclay Nuclear Research Centre in the Paris suburb of Essonne. He described this campus as a "small Versailles for nuclear research". Most of France's early nuclear reactors were constructed within the site.
His other major postwar projects included the reconstruction of the center of the port of Le Havre, which had been almost totally destroyed during the war. His first plan was rejected as too ambitious, but his modified plans were followed. He also participated in the postwar reconstruction of the Marseille port and of Amiens.
Later life, honors and legacy
Among the many young architects who worked in the office of Perret from 1908 to 1910 was Charles-Édouard Jeanneret-Gris, who later became known as Le Corbusier; it was his first experience in an architectural firm.
Perret also served as a juror with Florence Meyer Blumenthal in awarding the Prix Blumenthal, a grant given between 1919 and 1954 to young French painters, sculptors, decorators, engravers, writers, and musicians.
In 1998, the Perret Tower in Grenoble was declared a national heritage site by France.
In 2005, his reconstruction of Le Havre was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
List of major works
- Rue Franklin apartments, Paris, 1902–1904
- Garage Ponthieu, Paris, 1907
- Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, Paris, 1913
- Concrete cathedral in Le Raincy, France, Église Notre-Dame du Raincy, 1923, with stained-glass work by Marguerite Huré
- Perret Tower, Grenoble, 1925
- Concert hall of the École Normale de Musique de Paris, 1929
- Hôtel Saint-Georges, Beirut, Lebanon 1932
- Immeuble Lange, 9 place de la Porte-de-Passy, Paris (1929-1932)
- Services Techniques des Constructions Navales, 8 boulevard du General-Martial-Valin (15th arron.) Paris, 1929-1932; an example of a framework of exposed concrete columns.
- Building, 51-55 rue Raynouard (16th arr.) Paris, (1932), where Perret had his offices
- Palais Iéna, Paris, 1937, originally built as the Museum of Public Works for the 1937 Paris Exposition, now home of the French Economic, Social and Environmental Council
- Extensions to the École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts, Paris, 1945
- City Hall, St. Joseph's Church and further reconstruction of the French city of Le Havre after more than 80,000 inhabitants of that city were left homeless following World War II, 1949–1956
- Gare d'Amiens, 1955
- Villa Aghion, in Alexandria (partial attempt to destroy, 28 August 2009. Destroyed completely by 21 January 2016)
- Tour Perret, Grenoble
- Petit Robert Dictionnaire Universel des Noms Propres (1988)
- Poisson 2009, pp. 299-301.
- "Florence Meyer Blumenthal". Jewish Women's Archive, Michele Siegel.
- "Hôtels mythiques, hôtels de guerre: Beyrouth, nager dans les ruines". Obsession. 2014. Retrieved August 23, 2014.
- A Global History of Architecture by Francis D. K. Ching, Mark M. Jarzombek, Vikramaditya Prakash page 712
- Fierro, Alfred (1996). Histoire et dictionnaire de Paris. Robert Laffont. ISBN 2-221-07862-4.}
- Lemoine, Bertrand (2000). Guide d'architecture - France 20th century. Picard.
- Poisson, Michel (2009). 1000 Immeubles et monuments de Paris. Parigramme. ISBN 978-2-84096-539-8.
- Renault, Christophe (2006). Les Styles de l'architecture et du mobilier. Editions Jean-Paul Gisserot. ISBN 978-2-877474-658.}
- Texier, Simon (2012). Paris- Panorama de l'architecture. Parigramme. ISBN 978-2-84096-667-8.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Auguste Perret.|