|Grand Central Station, New York City||Commonwealth Bank Building Martin Place Sydney||Tacoma Union Station|
Beaux-Arts architecture denotes the academic classical architectural style that was taught at the École des Beaux Arts in Paris, the home territory of this style. The style “Beaux-Arts” is above all the cumulative product of two and a half centuries of instruction under the authority, first of the Académie royale d’architecture, then, following the Revolution, of the Architecture section of the Académie des Beaux-Arts. The organization under the Ancien Régime of the competition for the Grand Prix de Rome in architecture, offering a chance to study in Rome, imprinted its codes and esthetic on the course of instruction, which culminated during the Second Empire (1850-1870) and the Third Republic that followed. The style of instruction that produced Beaux-Arts architecture continued without a major renovation until 1968.
The Beaux-arts style influenced American architecture in the period 1885–1920. Other European architects of the period 1860-1914 tended to gravitate towards their own national academic centers rather than flocking to Paris. British architects of Imperial classicism, in a development culminating in Sir Edwin Lutyens’s New Delhi government buildings, followed a somewhat more independent course, owing to the cultural politics of the late 19th century.
Palais Garnier (1861-74) is a cornerpiece of Beaux-Arts architecture characterized by Émile Zola as “the opulent bastard of all styles”.
The last major American building constructed in the Beaux-Arts style, the San Francisco War Memorial Opera House, completed 1932
Beaux-Arts building decoration presenting images of the Roman goddesses Pomona and Diana. Note the naturalism of the postures and the rustication of the stonework.
Characteristics of Beaux-Arts style
French Beaux-Arts architecture
Pont Alexandre III and Grand Palais in Paris.
École des Beaux-Arts
American Beaux-Arts architecture
The “White City” of the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893 in Chicago was a triumph of the movement and a major impetus for the short-lived City Beautiful movement in the United States. Beaux-Arts city planning, with its Baroque insistence on vistas punctuated by symmetry, eye-catching monuments, axial avenues, uniform cornice heights, a harmonious “ensemble” and a somewhat theatrical nobility and accessible charm, embraced ideals that the ensuing Modernist movement decried or just dismissed.
Marks Scout Resource Center, Philadelphia, designed in 1929 by Charles Klauder
The Beaux-Arts style was also flexible. Steel-frame construction and other modern innovations in engineering techniques and materials, like structural Guastavino tile, were embraced by Beaux-Arts trained designers: splendid examples are provided by a string of Beaux-Arts urban railroad stations that combined many of these features within a triumphalist civic presentation. (Chicago’s Union Station is a famous American example of this style.) Two of the best American examples of the Beaux-Arts tradition stand within a few blocks of each other: Grand Central Terminal and the New York Public Library.
American architects working in the Beaux-Arts style
In Ottawa, Canada the Government Conference Centre was originally designed by Ross and Macdonald and built as a railway station in 1912.