The wealth acquired during the Industrial Revolution lead to the advent of Beaux-Arts Movement during the span of 1880 to 1930 in the United States which later became a part of late 19th century American Renaissance movement, originally Beaux-arts architectural style was taught at Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris part of the academic curriculum in architecture in the 1830s to end of 19th century. The architecture style is a theatrical and heavily ornamented classical style, it was a dominant design during the Gilded Age, and Beaux-Arts was a popular but short-lived movement lasting roughly around 1885 to 1925. In the United States, the Beaux-Arts style led to planned neighborhoods, with large houses, and grand public spaces. The Beaux-Arts style is most commonly used for public buildings like museums, railway stations, libraries, banks, courthouses, and government buildings to showcase grandiosity with scale and size. Due to the industrial revolution and availability of modern materials such as iron and glass, architecture was a mix of traditional elements and styles with modern techniques for robust and opulent structures in outlook. The Beaux-Arts style was a blend between principles of certain styles such as French Neoclassicism, Greek revival and renaissance. The architecture has ideas borrowed from these styles with certain forms and elements, its architecture is classical in nature with Greco-Roman styling. The design principles such as order, repetition, and symmetry are visible in the workmanship, the architectural character and elements such as balconies, arches, balustrades, columns, cornices, pilasters, pediments with elaborate ornamentation, formal design and grandiosity are seen in the design. Beautiful details that could enhance the decorative appearance and add lavishness to interiors with rich materials like stone are encouraged in use. Features such as medallions, flowers, shields, and sculptures with the opulent scale of the rooms are planning to exhibit palace-like feel are visible.  Architects associated with the style include Richard Morris Hunt, Henry Hobson Richardson, Charles Follen McKim, Raymond Hood, George B. Post, John Galen Howard, Daniel Burnham, Louis Sullivan and more.

The article focuses on some of the iconic projects of Beaux-arts movement as best exponents for its time-

1. National School of Fine Arts (l’Écolenationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts)

Location- Paris, France
Year constructed– Established in 1817
Designed by-Alexandre Lenoir (1761-1839), François Debret (1777-1850), Félix Duban (1797-1872)

Ecole des Beaux-Arts (School of Fine Arts) with its history of more than 350 years with origins traced back to 1648 which was founded by Cardinal Mazarin named Academia des Beaux-Arts, is an influential and renowned art school in France, which has shaped many great artists in Europe with its teaching methods to talented students in painting, drawing, engravings, sculpture, other artistic media, and architecture. During 19th and 20th-century Beaux-arts, the movement became popular and was trending within France and United States, the architecture style of beaux-arts was taught here leading to the practice of the style and many renowned and notable works of its time. The beaux-arts architecture intended to preserve the style and pass it to future generations to come, its architecture appreciated classical ‘antiquities’. Ecole des Beaux-Arts currently spread over an area of more than two hectares is a vast complex. The buildings situated here dates back to t 17th to 19th centuries including few from the 20th century. Alexandre Lenoir converted the premises into the Musee des Monuments Francais (museum), because of the French revolution and napoleon era, later this museum held many pieces of art with several extraordinary works of French sculpture.  Among the large complex and number of buildings among which the Ecole National Superieure des beaux-arts (ENSBA) is most famous and has a public establishment accompanied by administrative nature under the Ministry of Culture and Communication who nurtures students to the creation of high-level artistic pieces with the primary mission to educate them. École Nationale supérieure des beaux-arts have been instrumental in the fraternity of art and architecture and is a glorious place to learn who gave the world legends in the field of arts.

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2. Palais Garnier

Location- Place de l’Opéra in the 9th arrondissement of Paris, France.
Year constructed- It was built for the Paris Opera from 1861 to 1875 at the behest of Emperor Napoleon III.
Designed by- Charles Garnier

The Palais Garnier (Garnier Palace) or Opéra Garnier, Garnier Opera) is a masterpiece of the 19th-century theater art architecture. The theatre is acknowledged as the Monument Historique of France since 1923.  After opening a new opera house, the Opera Bastille, opened at the Place de la Bastille, thereon Palais Garnier is used mainly for ballet. It is a 1,979-seat opera house, the concerned architect plans and designs were representative of the Napoleon III style. Using a mix of elements borrowed from Baroque, Classicism of Palladio, Renaissance styles in architecture, with a very opulent, eclectic Napoleon III style, combined with axial symmetry and modern techniques and materials, including the use of an iron framework, which had been pioneered in other Napoleon III buildings, including the BibliothequeNationale and the markets of Les Halles. The facade of the Opera used seventeen different kinds of material, arranged in very elaborate multicolored marble friezes, columns, and lavish statuary, many of which portray deities of Greek mythology. The interior spaces were designed to accommodate a crowd of large size with a focus to facilitate their movement and thus reflect interweaving corridors, grand landing, and stairwells, in-between spaces (transition spaces) to socialize during intermission. The opulence was induced by creating decorative alcoves, patterns in gold using gold leaves, the rich appearance of velvet fabric and vibrant paintings of cherubim and nymphs, it showcases Baroque sumptuousness. This structure is world-famous as an opera house and is counted as an architectural marvel among structures like Notre Dame, Louvre Pyramid, etc. known globally. Palais Garnier is one of the celebrated structures of beaux-arts with an amalgamation of different styles with very distinctive characters and theatrical appearances.

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3. Rmn Grand Palais

Location- Champs-Élysées in the 8th arrondissement of Paris, France
Year constructed- Construction began in 1897 for the 1900 Exposition Universelle
Designed by- Group of four architects, Henri Deglane, Albert Louvet, Albert Thomas and Charles Girault, each with a separate area of responsibility.

A Monument Historique listed since 2000 and declared by the French Ministry of Culture- The Grand Palais (Great Palace), also known as Grand Palais des Champs – Elysees, built-in Beaux-arts style continued being a resounding success in terms of its architecture.  The structure is a blend of Baroque and Classicism which exhibits modernity. The Beaux-arts movement held adoration for detailing, ornamentation, decoration, and grandiosity to reflect in architecture. This building used innovation in terms of materials to give justice for the conceived style, amalgamation in use its materials which were majorly steel, stone and glass in different parts of the structure like stone facades, inside the stairway of honor is universally acclaimed work on account of its elegant iron scrollwork and green porphyry columns, the structure carried in light steel framing and iron with use of reinforced concrete, the glass used in the making of the vault, all this in totality reflects the exploration of techniques at the time. Around 40 contemporary artists embellished the exterior facade in varied and unique ways using statues, mosaics, polychrome friezes and by using ceramics decoratively. Today the Grand Palais is over 100 years old yet its splendid architecture is cherished which showcase the fine arts of the era. It is one of the most iconic Parisian monuments.

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4. San Francisco City Hall

Location-1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place San Francisco, California
Year constructed-1913-1916
Designed by-Bakewell & Brown

The seat of government for the city and county of San Francisco – known endearingly as people’s palace is the San Francisco City Hall, serving as a Civic Center to the city in its open space area. The great earthquake and fire of 1906 April in which the original city hall was destroyed, after which the civic leaders tried to demonstrate the city’s rebirth in time by constructing the new city hall with Steel, granite, and four floors of white marble interiors making San Francisco’s symbol of resilience at the start of the World’s Fair of 1915. It opened as a monument to the City Beautiful Movement in 1915, designed by Arthur Brown Jr., in Beaux-arts architecture style, with an eye for details like signage, typeface and even utilitarian doorknobs. With its significance of past, it stands today as the crown jewel of San Francisco with architecture perfectly working for hosting events and celebrations such as gala’s, weddings, and dinners. The natives celebrated its architecture in awe considering its glitzy exteriors, detailing, lavish architecture in the scale of its grand staircase and rotunda (domed room), and placement of north and south courtyards for ample natural light intake. It is a cherished structure in San Francisco and worldwide for its architecture.

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5. Vanderbilt Marble House

Location- Newport, Rhode Island
Year constructed- 1888–92
Designed by- Richard Morris Hunt

Gilded Age mansion designed as a summer cottage for Alva and William Kissam Vanderbilt is known as Vanderbilt Marble House. Petit Trianon at Versailles was an inspiration to conceive and build this structure, imagined with beautiful luxuriousness it stood distinctly when completed in 1892 as an American House. Named by the material used in large quantity that is marble, it was reported the entire cost of the structure was 11 million dollars, with grandly 500,000 cubic feet being of 7 million dollars of marble. Being an early example of Beaux-arts building in the United States, here French neoclassical architectural forms of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries were used to enliven the Beaux-Arts detailing. White Westchester marble makes the exterior walls opulent and brick walls are load-bearing in nature maintaining its robust look. The construction of this house in Newport transformed and opened avenues for upcoming constructions, from the existing colony of houses made in wood to stone palaces exhibiting luxury and richness. Resembling White house, the marble house had a Porte-cochere, also used as a temple- front portico. Currently converted to a museum after acquiring by 1963, and managed by the Preservation Society of Newport County it is designated as a historic landmark. In its past glory, this structure was a social and architectural marvel that became a driver setting pace for Newport, Rhode Island.

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6. New York Public Library, Main Branch

Location- Midtown Manhattan, New York City
Year constructed- 1897–1911
Designed by-Carrère and Hastings

Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, colloquially known as the New York Public Library (Main Branch), is one of the four research libraries in the New York Public library system. Being a Beaux-Arts structure and a landmark to the city designed by an architecture firm Carrere and Hastings it is well known among the residents of New York. The pair of robust statutes of lions accentuate the Fifth Avenue entrance which is a symbolic icon of the Library. It is open up to four stories for the public and the building had 4 million annual visitors by the 1920s. Having 9 divisions its interior contains the Main reading room measuring 24 m by 91 m and 16 m in ceiling height, it has few more reading rooms and A Public catalog room with administrative offices and exhibition spaces. The ornate detailing and marble façade of the building and significance of the structure made itself declared as National Historic Landmark, a National Register of Historic Places site, and a New York City designated landmark in the 1960s.

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7. Grand Central Terminal, New York

Location- 42nd Street and Park Avenue in Midtown Manhattan, New York City
Year constructed- 1903–1913
Designed by- Reed and Stem; Warren and Wetmore

Officially called Grand Central Terminal is widely recognized by many names such as GCT, Grand Central or simply, The Terminal. Situated in Midtown Manhattan this historic world-famous landmark is not simply a transportation hub (commuter rail terminal serving the northern parts of the New York metropolitan area) but it encompasses wide activities underneath from shopping, dining and many events all under one roof acting as a cultural destination for people. Grand central terminal thrives as a public space being the unofficial meeting place for people of New York City and is adored architectural achievement. It is one of the world’s ten most visited tourist attractions, with 21.9 million visitors annually, excluding train and subway passengers. Spread over 48 acres it has most platforms than worldwide railroad stations i.e. 44 platforms in nearly 19-hectare land. Grand Central Terminal is called one of the majestic buildings of the twentieth century. It is an example of great engineering, survival, and rebirth distinctive architecture and interior design of Grand Central Terminal’s station house have earned it several landmark designations, including as a National Historic Landmark. GCT’s Concourse widely used as a meeting place is featured in many films and television.  Its iconic beauty and lasting legacy of Grand Central Terminal are cherished to date.

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8. Surrogate’s Courthouse

Location- Lower Manhattan, New York
Year constructed- 1899-1907
Designed by- John R. Thomas; Horgan & Slattery

The former Hall of Records, now the Surrogate’s Court is a Beaux-Arts Structure – a municipal building. Designated a city landmark in 1986, it was a highlight of the City Beautiful movement. This structure is a great example of its time as a marriage of art and architecture.  It is built of Maine granite and features more than fifty-four sculptures on its exterior facade by highly accolade artists such as Philip Martiny and Henry Kirke Bush-Browne the facade represents both allegorical figures-such as New York in Its Infancy, Revolutionary Times, Philosophy, Law, and the seasons — and eminent figures from the city’s past. The surrogate courthouse has a well-proportioned seven-story, the steel-framed building is faced with granite from Hallowell, Maine. The facade has intricated work whose architecture is carried in a three-part façade that is – The main entrance is centered along a two-story base which is triple arched. Centered above it a Corinthian colonnade which is three-storied which stands topped by a cornice. After this five-story, the sixth story is again topped by a cornice on which Mansard roof beautifully falls. It’s considered one of the city’s finest Beaux-Arts interiors. The decorated and distinct interiors are featured in several movies and commercials and are well known in the entertainment and advertising industry. William de Leftwich Dodge artistically shaped the interiors, the foyer contains materials such as Siena marble on walls and a vaulted mosaic ceiling giving it a distinct edge. It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1977 for its architecture and has its name in the National Register of Historic Places (1972).

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9. Musée d’Orsay

Location- Paris, France, on the left bank of the Seine opposite the Louvre and facing towards the river.
Year constructed- Built between 1898 and 1900.

Designed by- Original structure was constructed by three architects: Lucien Magne, Emile Benard and Victor Laloux. Pierre Colboc, Renaud Bardon and Jean-Paul Philippon a team of three architects under ACT Architecture, within signing contract created new floor space of 20,000 square metres on four floors. Bouygues carried the work of construction. GaeAulenti an Italian architect in 1981 carried interior works including decoration, internal spatial arrangement, fittings and furniture in the museum.

This beautiful museum, once a railroad station named Gare d’Orsay, a Beaux-Arts railway station built between 1898 and 1900. Later it was listed as a historic monument and converted to a museum to bridge the gap between the Louvre and the National Museum of Modern Art at the Georges Pompidou Centre. After necessary construction carried the museum officially opened in December 1986 by then-president Francois Mitterrand. Ranked 3rd nationally and 10th globally it is one of the largest museums in Europe with more than 3 million visitors annually. Dated from 1848 to 1914 a wide collection of French art comprising photography, sculptures, paintings and furniture is held by the museum. It houses the largest collection of impressionist and post-Impressionist masterpieces in the world, by legendary painters including Monet, Manet, Van Gogh and more. Musée d’Orsay is known as a masterpiece of industrial architecture due to a total of 12,000 tons of metal was used in its construction, which is more than the amount used to build the Eiffel Tower. It is a remarkable structure of beaux architecture having an ornate Beaux-Arts facade and iconic iron-and-glass barrel vault.

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10. Thomas Jefferson Building

Location- 1st Street SE, between Independence Avenue and East Capitol Street in Washington, D.C.
Year constructed- Built between 1890 and 1897
Designed by- Main architect Paul J. Pelz, partnership with John L. Smithmeyer, and succeeded by Edward Pearce Casey (interior works).

Originally known as the Library of Congress Building, Thomas Jefferson Building, is the oldest of the four United States Library of Congress buildings.  The grandeur of the building, its size, and proportion, the noble artwork, and fascinating sculptures are breathtaking. It contains some of the affluent public interiors in the United States, comprising compendium of the work of classically trained American sculptors and painters of the “American Renaissance”.  Resembling the beaux art style and representing grandiose cultural nationalism the Palais Garnier situated in Paris is one of the similar architectural vocabulary used for the central block of Jefferson building. This Beaux-Arts style building is known for its classicizing facade and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1965.

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Samiksha Muddamwar
Author

Samiksha Muddamwar, an architecture graduate currently collaborating with a firm involved in conservation and heritage awareness, besides her instinctive explorations in prose, poetry, and visual illustration. Her interests span a multitude of subjects, driven by a curiosity of ways and means, to make the world around her, a better place.

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