Beaux-Arts architecture

Beaux-Arts architecture (/bz ˈɑːr/ bohz AR, French: [boz‿aʁ] ) was the academic architectural style taught at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, particularly from the 1830s to the end of the 19th century. It drew upon the principles of French neoclassicism, but also incorporated Renaissance and Baroque elements, and used modern materials, such as iron and glass, and later, steel. It was an important style and enormous influence in Europe and the Americas through the end of the 19th century, and into the 20th, particularly for institutional and public buildings.

Beaux-Arts architecture
Top: The Grand staircase of the Palais Garnier (Paris), 1860–1875, by Charles Garnier; Second: The CEC Palace on Victory Avenue (Bucharest, Romania), 1897–1900, by Paul Gottereau;[1] Third: Entrance of the Grand Palais (Paris), 1900, by Charles Girault; Bottom: Grand Central Terminal and the New York Central Building (New York City), pictured in 1944.



The Beaux-Arts style evolved from the French classicism of the Style Louis XIV, and then French neoclassicism beginning with Style Louis XV and Style Louis XVI. French architectural styles before the French Revolution were governed by Académie royale d'architecture (1671–1793), then, following the French Revolution, by the Architecture section of the Académie des Beaux-Arts. The academy held the competition for the Grand Prix de Rome in architecture, which offered prize winners a chance to study the classical architecture of antiquity in Rome.[2]

The formal neoclassicism of the old regime was challenged by four teachers at the academy, Joseph-Louis Duc, Félix Duban, Henri Labrouste, and Léon Vaudoyer, who had studied at the French Academy in Rome at the end of the 1820s. They wanted to break away from the strict formality of the old style by introducing new models of architecture from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Their goal was to create an authentic French style based on French models. Their work was aided beginning in 1837 by the creation of the Commission of Historic Monuments, headed by the writer and historian Prosper Mérimée, and by the great interest in the Middle Ages caused by the publication in 1831 of The Hunchback of Notre-Dame by Victor Hugo. Their declared intention was to "imprint upon our architecture a truly national character."[3]

The style referred to as Beaux-Arts in English reached the apex of its development during the Second Empire (1852–1870) and the Third Republic that followed. The style of instruction that produced Beaux-Arts architecture continued without major interruption until 1968.[2]

The Beaux-Arts style heavily influenced the architecture of the United States in the period from 1880 to 1920.[4] In contrast, many European architects of the period 1860–1914 outside France gravitated away from Beaux-Arts and towards their own national academic centers. Owing to the cultural politics of the late 19th century, British architects of Imperial classicism followed a somewhat more independent course, a development culminating in Sir Edwin Lutyens's New Delhi government buildings.[citation needed]



The Beaux-Arts training emphasized the mainstream examples of Imperial Roman architecture between Augustus and the Severan emperors, Italian Renaissance, and French and Italian Baroque models especially, but the training could then be applied to a broader range of models: Quattrocento Florentine palace fronts or French late Gothic. American architects of the Beaux-Arts generation often returned to Greek models, which had a strong local history in the American Greek Revival of the early 19th century. For the first time, repertories of photographs supplemented meticulous scale drawings and on-site renderings of details.

Beaux-Arts training made great use of agrafes, clasps that link one architectural detail to another; to interpenetration of forms, a Baroque habit; to "speaking architecture" (architecture parlante) in which the appropriateness of symbolism was paid particularly close attention.

Beaux-Arts training emphasized the production of quick conceptual sketches, highly finished perspective presentation drawings, close attention to the program, and knowledgeable detailing. Site considerations included the social and urban context.[5]

All architects-in-training passed through the obligatory stages—studying antique models, constructing analos, analyses reproducing Greek or Roman models, "pocket" studies and other conventional steps—in the long competition for the few desirable places at the Académie de France à Rome (housed in the Villa Medici) with traditional requirements of sending at intervals the presentation drawings called envois de Rome.



Beaux-Arts architecture depended on sculptural decoration along conservative modern lines, employing French and Italian Baroque and Rococo formulas combined with an impressionistic finish and realism. In the façade shown above, Diana grasps the cornice she sits on in a natural action typical of Beaux-Arts integration of sculpture with architecture.

Slightly overscaled details, bold sculptural supporting consoles, rich deep cornices, swags, and sculptural enrichments in the most bravura finish the client could afford gave employment to several generations of architectural modellers and carvers of Italian and Central European backgrounds. A sense of appropriate idiom at the craftsman level supported the design teams of the first truly modern architectural offices.

Characteristics of Beaux-Arts architecture included:

  • Flat roof[4]
  • Rusticated and raised first story[4]
  • Hierarchy of spaces, from "noble spaces"—grand entrances and staircases—to utilitarian ones
  • Arched windows[4]
  • Arched and pedimented doors[4]
  • Classical details:[4] references to a synthesis of historicist styles and a tendency to eclecticism; fluency in a number of "manners"
  • Symmetry[4]
  • Statuary,[4] sculpture (bas-relief panels, figural sculptures, sculptural groups), murals, mosaics, and other artwork, all coordinated in theme to assert the identity of the building
  • Classical architectural details:[4] balustrades, pilasters, festoons, cartouches, acroteria, with a prominent display of richly detailed clasps (agrafes), brackets and supporting consoles
  • Subtle polychromy

Beaux-Arts architecture by country






Even though the style was not used as much as in neighbouring country France, some examples of Beaux-Arts buildings can still be found in Belgium. The most prominent of these examples is the Royal Museum for Central Africa in Tervuren, but the complexes and triumphal arch of the Cinquantenaire/Jubelpark in Brussels and expansions of the Palace of Laeken in Brussels and Royal Galleries of Ostend also carry the Beaux-Arts style, created by the French architect Charles Girault. Furthermore, various large Beaux-Arts buildings can also be found in Brussels on the Avenue Molière/Molièrelaan. As an old student of the École des Beaux-Arts and as a designer of the Petit Palais, Girault was the figurehead of the Beaux-Arts around the 20th century. After the death of Alphonse Balat, he became the new and favourite architect of Leopold II of Belgium. Since Leopold was the grandson of Louis Philippe I of France, he loved this specific building style which is similar to and has its roots in the architecture that has been realized in the 17th and 18th century for the French crown.

Beaux-Arts buildings in Belgium



The Beaux-Arts style in France in the 19th century was initiated by four young architects trained at the École des Beaux-Arts, architects; Joseph-Louis Duc, Félix Duban, Henri Labrouste, and Léon Vaudoyer, who had first studied Roman and Greek architecture at the Villa Medici in Rome, then in the 1820s began the systematic study of other historic architectural styles, including French architecture of the Middle Ages and Renaissance. They instituted teaching about a variety of architectural styles at the École des Beaux-Arts, and installed fragments of Renaissance and Medieval buildings in the courtyard of the school so students could draw and copy them. Each of them also designed new non-classical buildings in Paris inspired by a variety of different historic styles: Labrouste built the Sainte-Geneviève Library (1844–1850), Duc designed the new Palais de Justice and Court of Cassation on the Île-de-la-Cité (1852–1868), Vaudroyer designed the Conservatoire national des arts et métiers (1838–1867), and Duban designed the new buildings of the École des Beaux-Arts. Together, these buildings, drawing upon Renaissance, Gothic and Romanesque and other non-classical styles, broke the monopoly of neoclassical architecture in Paris.[6]



Germany is one of the countries where the Beaux-Arts style was well received, along with Baroque Revival architecture. The style was especially popular and most prominently featured in the now non-existent region of Prussia during the German Empire. The best example of Beaux-Arts buildings in Germany today are the Bode Museum in Berlin, and the Laeiszhalle and Hochschule für Musik und Theater Hamburg in Hamburg.

Beaux-Arts buildings in Germany


Beaux-Arts buildings in Hungary


Beaux-Arts buildings in Italy



Compared to other countries like France and Germany, the Beaux-Arts style never really became prominent in the Netherlands. However, a handful of significant buildings have nonetheless been made in this style during the period of 1880 to 1920, mainly being built in the cities of Rotterdam, Amsterdam and The Hague.

Beaux-Arts buildings in the Netherlands


Beaux-Arts buildings in Portugal



In the Romanian Old Kingdom, towards the end of the century, many administrative buildings and private homes are built in the «Beaux-Arts» or «Eclectic» style, brought from France through French architects who came here for work in Romania, schooled in France. The National Bank of Romania Palace on Strada Lipscani, built between 1883 and 1885 is a good example of this style, decorated not just with columns (mainly Ionic), but also with allegorical statues placed in niches, that depict Agriculture, Industry, Commerce, and Justice. Because of the popularity of this style, it changed the way Bucharest looks, making it similar in some way with Paris, which led to Bucharest being seen as "Little Paris". Eclecticism was very popular not just in Bucharest and Iași, the two biggest cities of Romania at that time, but also in smaller ones like Craiova, Caracal, Râmnicu Vâlcea, Pitești, Ploiești, Buzău, Botoșani, Piatra Neamț, etc. This style was used not only for administrative palaces and big houses of wealthy people, but also for middle-class homes.


Beaux-Arts buildings in Spain
  • 1876: Royal Economic Society of Friends of the Country of Cartagena building, Cartagena
  • 1876–1882: North Station, Madrid
  • 1981: Casa Resines, Valladolid
  • 1886: Gutierrez Passage, Valladolid
  • 1902: Hotel Santo Mauro, Madrid
  • 1905–1910: Casino de Madrid
  • 1907–1911: Metropolis Building, Madrid
  • 1908–1911: Calle de Montalbán 5, Madrid
  • 1913–1916: Reynot House, Madrid
  • 1919–1924: Gran Vía 24, Madrid
  • 1920–1923: Homes for the Marquis of Encinares, Madrid
  • 1921–1923: Mansion of Tomás de Beruete, Madrid
  • 1922: Former Humanities Center of the Spanish National Research Council, Madrid
  • 1924: Calle Mayor 6, Madrid
  • 1915–1928: Navy Headquarters, Madrid [es]

North America




Beaux-Arts was very prominent in public buildings in Canada in the early 20th century. Notably all three prairie provinces' legislative buildings are in this style.

Beaux-Arts buildings in Canada
Beaux-Arts architects in Canada



Beaux-Arts was architecturally relevant in Mexico in the late 19th century and the first decade of 20th century. The style was popular among the científicos of the Porfiriato. The Academy of San Carlos had an impact on the style's development in Mexico. Notable architects include Genaro Alcorta, Alfred Giles, and Antonio Rivas Mercado (the preeminent Mexican architect during this era). Rivas Mercado served as the director of the Academy of San Carlos from 1903 to 1912.[11] Having studied at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, he aimed to incorporate and adapt its teachings to the Mexican context.[11] Among the texts produced on the Beaux-Artes style, Eléments et théorie de l'architecture from Julien Guadet is said to have had the most influence in Mexico.[11] The style lost popularity following the Mexican Revolution (beginning in 1910). In contemporary architecture, the style has influenced New Classical architect Jorge Loyzaga.[12]

United States


Beaux-Arts architecture had a strong influence on architecture in the United States because of the many prominent American architects who studied at the École des Beaux-Arts, including Henry Hobson Richardson, John Galen Howard, Daniel Burnham, and Louis Sullivan.[13]: 76 

The first American architect to attend the École des Beaux-Arts was Richard Morris Hunt, between 1846 and 1855, followed by Henry Hobson Richardson in 1860. They were followed by an entire generation. Richardson absorbed Beaux-Arts lessons in massing and spatial planning, then applied them to Romanesque architectural models that were not characteristic of the Beaux-Arts repertory. His Beaux-Arts training taught him to transcend slavish copying and recreate in the essential fully digested and idiomatic manner of his models. Richardson evolved a highly personal style (Richardsonian Romanesque) freed of historicism that was influential in early Modernism.[14]

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.[15] 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.[16] The first American university to institute a Beaux-Arts curriculum is the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1893, when the French architect Constant-Désiré Despradelle was brought to MIT to teach. The Beaux-Arts curriculum was subsequently begun at Columbia University, the University of Pennsylvania, and elsewhere.[17] From 1916, the Beaux-Arts Institute of Design in New York City schooled architects, painters, and sculptors to work as active collaborators.

Beaux-Arts buildings in the United States

Numerous American university campuses were designed in the Beaux-Arts, notably: Columbia University (commissioned in 1896), designed by McKim, Mead & White; the University of California, Berkeley (commissioned in 1898), designed by John Galen Howard; the United States Naval Academy (built 1901–1908), designed by Ernest Flagg; the campus of MIT (commissioned in 1913), designed by William W. Bosworth; Emory University and Carnegie Mellon University (commissioned in 1908 and 1904, respectively),[18] both designed by Henry Hornbostel; and the University of Texas (commissioned in 1931), designed by Paul Philippe Cret.

While the style of Beaux-Art buildings was adapted from historical models, the construction used the most modern available technology. The Grand Palais in Paris (1897–1900) had a modern iron frame inside; the classical columns were purely for decoration. The 1914–1916 construction of the Carolands Chateau south of San Francisco was built to withstand earthquakes, following the devastating 1906 San Francisco earthquake. The noted Spanish structural engineer Rafael Guastavino (1842–1908), famous for his vaultings, known as Guastavino tile work, designed vaults in dozens of Beaux-Arts buildings in Boston, New York, and elsewhere.

Beaux-Arts architecture also brought a civic face to railroads. Chicago's Union Station, Detroit's Michigan Central Station, Jacksonville's Union Terminal, Grand Central Terminal and the original Pennsylvania Station in New York, and Washington, D.C.'s Union Station are famous American examples of this style. Cincinnati has a number of notable Beaux-Arts style buildings, including the Hamilton County Memorial Building in the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood, and the former East End Carnegie library in the Columbia-Tusculum neighborhood.

Two notable ecclesiastical variants on the Beaux-Arts style—both serving the same archdiocese, and both designed by the same architect—stand in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis–Saint Paul, Minnesota. Minneapolis' Basilica of St. Mary,[19] the first basilica constructed and consecrated in the United States, was designed by Franco-American architect Emmanuel Louis Masqueray (1861–1917) and opened in 1914. A year later in neighboring Saint Paul, construction of the massive Masqueray-designed Cathedral of Saint Paul (also known as National Shrine Cathedral of the Apostle Paul) was completed. The third-largest Roman Catholic cathedral in the United States, its architecture predominantly reflects Beaux-Arts principles, into which Masqueray integrated stylistic elements of other celebrated French churches.

A North American Freemason temple variant is the Plainfield Masonic Temple, in Plainfield, New Jersey, designed by John E. Minott in 1927. Other examples include the main branch of the New York Public Library; Bancroft Hall at the Naval Academy, the largest academic dormitory in the world;[20] and Michigan Central Station in Detroit, the tallest railway station in the world at the time of completion.[21]

Beaux-Arts architects in the United States

In the late 1800s, during the years when Beaux-Arts architecture was at a peak in France, Americans were one of the largest groups of foreigners in Paris. Many of them were architects and students of architecture who brought this style back to America.[22] The following individuals, students of the École des Beaux-Arts, are identified as creating work characteristic of the Beaux-Arts style within the United States:

Charles McKim, William Mead, and Stanford White would ultimately become partners in the prominent architectural firm of McKim, Mead & White, which designed many well-known Beaux-Arts buildings.[23]

South America




From 1880 the so-called Generation of '80 came to power in Argentine politics. These were admirers of France as a model republic, particularly with regard to culture and aesthetic tastes. Buenos Aires is a center of Beaux-Arts architecture which continued to be built as late as the 1950s.[24]

Beaux-Arts buildings in Argentina
Beaux-Arts architects in Argentina


Beaux-Arts buildings in Brazil




Beaux-Arts buildings in Peru




Beaux-Arts buildings in Mozambique
  • 1901?: Municipal Market, Maputo
  • 1933: Gil Vicente Theater, Maputo
  • Banco da Beira, Beira
  • Casa Ana, Beira
  • Casa Infante de Sagres, Beira
  • Edifício do Almoxarifado, Beira
  • Escola de Artes e Ofícios, Beira
  • Palácio dos Desportos, Beira
  • Standard Bank Building, Beira
  • Tribunal da Beira




Beaux-Arts buildings in Japan
  • 1918: Kobe Yusen Building, Kobe
  • 1926–1929: Mitsui Main Building, Tokyo
  • 1930–1934: Meiji Life Insurance Building, Tokyo
  • Yokohama Yusen Building


Beaux-Arts buildings in Philippines





Several Australian cities have some significant examples of the style. It was typically applied to large, solid-looking public office buildings and banks, particularly during the 1920s.

Beaux-Arts buildings in Australia

New Zealand

Beaux-Arts buildings in New Zealand

See also



  1. ^ Marinache, Oana (2017). Paul Gottereau – Un Regal în Arhitectură (in Romanian). Editura Istoria Artei. p. 184. ISBN 978-606-8839-09-7.
  2. ^ a b Robin Middleton, ed. (1982). The Beaux-Arts and Nineteenth-century French Architecture. London: Thames and Hudson.
  3. ^ Texier 2012, p. 76.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i Clues to American Architecture. Klein and Fogle. 1986. p. 38. ISBN 0-913515-18-3.
  5. ^ Arthur Drexler, ed. (1977). The Architecture of the École des Beaux-Arts. New York: Museum of Modern Art.
  6. ^ Texier 2012, pp. 76–77.
  7. ^ Celac, Carabela & Marcu-Lapadat 2017, p. 64.
  8. ^ Celac, Carabela & Marcu-Lapadat 2017, p. 51.
  9. ^ Celac, Carabela & Marcu-Lapadat 2017, p. 90.
  10. ^ Celac, Carabela & Marcu-Lapadat 2017, p. 84.
  11. ^ a b c Noelle, Louise (2012). "Arquitectos y arquitectura francesa en México, siglo XX". Villes en Parallèle. pp. 240–260. doi:10.3406/vilpa.2012.1496. Retrieved 21 July 2024.
  12. ^ "How These Mexican Designers Are Continuing a Legacy of Craftsmanship". House Beautiful. 24 March 2021.
  13. ^ Texier 2012.
  14. ^ James Philip Noffsinger. The Influence of the École des Beaux-arts on the Architects of the United States (Washington DC., Catholic University of America Press, 1955).
  15. ^ Howe, Jeffery. "Beaux-Arts Architecture in America". Archived from the original on 9 June 2017. Retrieved 1 August 2017.
  16. ^ Chafee, Richard. The Architecture of the École des Beaux-Arts. New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1977.
  17. ^ Jarzombek, Mark (2004). Designing MIT: Bosworth's New Tech. Northeastern University Press.
  18. ^ "Emory to demolish John Portman-designed Dobbs University Center". 13 February 2017. Retrieved 9 June 2019.
  19. ^ "Architecture | The Basilica of Saint Mary". Retrieved 9 November 2017.
  20. ^ National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form [page 3]. National Park Service of the U.S. Department of the Interior, September 1977, as recorded to the Maryland State Archives, 2 December 1992. Accessed 14 January 2016.
  21. ^ Marcus, Jonathan. "Michigan Central and the rebirth of Detroit". BBC News. Retrieved 16 July 2019.
  22. ^ Beaux-arts Architecture in New York: A Photographic Guide Front Cover Courier Dover Publications, 1988 (page vii–viii)
  23. ^ Richard Guy Wilson. McKim, Mead & White, Architects (New York: Rizzoli, 1983)
  24. ^ Encyclopedia of Twentieth Century Architecture, Stephen Sennott (ed.), p. 186


  • Celac, Mariana; Carabela, Octavian; Marcu-Lapadat, Marius (2017). Bucharest Architecture – an annotated guide. Order of Architects of Romania. ISBN 978-973-0-23884-6.
  • Texier, Simon (2012). Paris- Panorama de l'architecture. Parigramme. ISBN 978-2-84096-667-8.a ddi

Further reading

  • Reed, Henry Hope; Gillon Jr. Edmund V. (1988). Beaux-Arts Architecture in New York: A Photographic Guide. Dover Publications: Mineola NY.
  • United States. Commission of Fine Arts. 1978, 1988 (2 vols.). Sixteenth Street Architecture (The Commission of Fine Arts: Washington, D.C.: The Commission) – profiles of Beaux-Arts architecture in Washington D.C. SuDoc FA 1.2: AR 2.