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Boullée, Étienne-Louis

Boullée, Étienne-Louis (1728–99). Parisian architect and teacher (from 1747), whose importance lies in his theoretical writings and visionary drawings, for he taught generations of pupils, including Chalgrin, Brongniart, and Durand. He himself had imbibed the great French Classical traditions of C17 and C18 from Blondel and Le Geay, and from 1762 to 1778 he designed several private houses, most of which no longer exist, although the Hôtel Alexandre, Paris (1763–6), survives. With Ledoux, Peyre, and de Wailly, Boullée pioneered severity in domestic architecture: he monumentalized the main block with a Giant Order and concealed the wings behind trellises or walls to give emphasis to the centrepiece of the composition. In the vanguard of the anti-Rococo decorators, he won for himself a reputation as an interior designer, exploiting lighting effects with considerable success. From 1778 to 1788 he produced a great range of visionary drawings based on those he used for teaching purposes and those he made to enter architectural competitions. He responded to Laugier's reductionist themes by stripping all unnecessary ornament from stereometrically pure forms inflated to a megalomaniac scale (influenced by Piranesi), repeating elements such as columns in huge ranges, and making his architecture expressive of its purpose (architecture parlante). His most successful (though unrealized) schemes of visionary architecture are those for tombs, mausolea, cenotaphs, and cemeteries, including the huge Cenotaph of Newton (a vast sphere set in a circular base topped with cypresses). His treatise, Architecture. Essai sur l'art, written in the 1790s, was not published until this century.

Bibliography

Builder (1980);
Jacques & and Mouilleseaux (1988);
Kalnein (1995);
E. Kaufmann (1952);
Lankeit (1973);
Madec (1986);
Pérouse de Montclos (1974);
Rosenau (1953, 1976);
A. Rossi (1967);
Vogt (1969)

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