Auguste Perret

views updated May 14 2018

Auguste Perret

Auguste Perret (1874-1954), a French architect and building contractor, was one of the first to use concrete as an architecturally significant material, and his works had an important influence upon the International Style of the 1920s in Europe.

Auguste Perret the son of a building contractor, was born at Ixelles near Brussels on Feb. 12, 1874. His early theoretical training came from reading the works of Eugène Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc, who advocated the reintegration of architectural form and techniques of construction, which had gone separate ways in the 19th century. Perret studied at the école des Beaux-Arts (1891-1895) in Paris in the studio of Julien Guadet, from whom he learned traditional classical composition and theory. Perret left without a degree and joined his father's firm. This, at the death of the elder Perret in 1905, became Perret Frères, including as principals Auguste and his brother Gustave. Perret Freres both designed its own buildings and executed the designs of others in reinforced concrete.

Reinforced concrete combines the monolithic compressive strength of concrete with the tensile strength of steel rods. Its use in building began in the late 19th century. Perret raised the material to architectural distinction in such buildings as the three upon which his reputation principally rests: an apartment building at 25b Rue Franklin (1903) and a garage at 51 Rue de Ponthieu (1905), both in Paris, and the Church of Notre Dame (1922) at Le Raincy near Paris.

At the Rue Franklin apartment the reinforced-concrete frame is for the first time clearly expressed, if not exposed, on the exterior. The frame is covered with smooth ceramic tiles, whereas the nonstructural wall panels are covered with tiles bearing a foliate pattern. The structural frame, in addition, creates point supports that eliminate stationary, load-bearing partitions within the apartments, and this results in potentially flexible, open plans.

The facade of the garage is an exposed reinforced-concrete frame filled in with glass and arranged according to classical rules rather than by inner structural logic. Its stark rectangularity and openness made it a favorite of the next generation of architects.

The church at Le Raincy is perhaps Perret's most impressive design. Nave and side aisles of nearly identical height are separated by tall, very slender reinforced-concrete columns sustaining overhead thin concrete vaults. The exterior walls surrounding this light, open hall are mere screens of precast, concrete latticework filled with colored glass that changes from yellow at the entrance to purple behind the altar. Such works helped to establish concrete as an acceptable architectural material in the 20th century, even if they did little to further the technology of reinforced-concrete construction.

Perret continued to be active to the end of his life, rebuilding, for example, the destroyed centers of Le Havre and Amiens after World War II. He died in Paris on Feb. 25, 1954.

Further Reading

The basic work on Perret is Peter Collins, Concrete: The Vision of a New Architecture (1959), the last half of which is devoted to "The Contribution of Auguste Perret." A slightly different interpretation of his work is in Reyner Banham, Theory and Design in the First Machine Age (1960). Bernard Champigneulle, Perret (1959), in French, is an indispensable reference work because of its many good photographs and drawings of Perret's work. Henry-Russell Hitchcock, Architecture: Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries (1958; 2d ed. 1963), contains a chapter on Perret's work. □

Perret, Auguste

views updated May 18 2018

Perret, Auguste (1874–1954). French architect and building contractor. He and his brothers Gustave (1876–1952) and Claude (1880–1960) were among the first to exploit the architectural possibilities of reinforced concrete as evolved by Hennebique. Perret Frères's first reinforced-concrete multistorey building was the celebrated apartment-block at 25b Rue Franklin, Paris (1903–4), which has faïence patterns in the panels. They built the Théâtre des Champs Élysées, Paris (1911–13), loosely based on designs by Roger Bouvard and Henri van de Velde. Perret and his engineer, Louis Gellusseau, evolved reinforced-concrete technology so that the surface of the material itself would be exposed and sufficient thickness of concrete (theoretically) provided to ensure the internal steelwork was protected from damp. With the war-memorial Church of Notre Dame, Le Raincy (1922–4), a truly monumental work of architecture was created, with all the concrete unclad and exposed: the building received widespread publicity and established the reputation of the firm (although by 1985 the steel was rusting, and surfaces of the concrete were crumbling). At the apartment-block, 51–5 Rue Raynouard, Paris (1929–32), some of the concrete was finished with bouchardage (bush-hammering) to remove the cement film and expose the coarser aggregate within the concrete, one of the first instances of this technique. Perret also designed the Mobilier National (1934–5) and the Musée des Travaux Publics (1936–57), both in Paris, and both concrete buildings. His last works were the master-plan for the rebuilding of Le Havre (1949–56), which had been destroyed in the 1939–45 war, and the central square and centrally planned Church of St Joseph (1952). In all his works the discipline of Classicism, even in an extreme, stripped form, was rarely absent. He published Une Contribution à une théorie de l'architecture (A Contribution to a Theory of Architecture—1952).


Abram et al. (2000);
Britton (2001);
Champigneulle (1959);
J- L. Cohen et al. (2002);
P. Collins (1959);
Doumato (1982);
G. Fanelli & and Gargiani (1990, 1991);
Frampton (1980);
Freigang (2003);
Jamot (1927);
Placzek (ed.) (1982);
Perret (1959);
Perret & and Perret (1976);
Jane Turner (1996);
Zahar (1959)

Perret, Auguste

views updated Jun 08 2018


French architect important for original contributions to civic and ecclesiastic architecture; b. Brussels, 1874;d. Paris, 1954. His use of reinforced concrete (invented by the French engineers Hennébique and Coignet in the 1890s) for an apartment at Rue Franklin, Paris (1903), was the first such use of concrete in frame construction. This and subsequent structures liberated concrete from a basement-hidden material into a frankly expressed, monolithic constructional system that bears considerable influence on contemporary building. His church of Notre-Dame du raincy (192223) was the first to break with the accumulated styles of the past and to house a congregation on 20th-century terms. It is built of reinforced concrete with slender concrete nave columns supporting the roof; its side walls are independent, prefabricated concrete grills filled with colored glass, so that the interior is light and open. The altar is placed nearer to the congregation than in earlier churches. After the similar church of Sainte-Thérèse de Montmagny (Seine-et-Oise, 192526) his work became increasingly formalistic with even classic qualities. The rigid postwar rebuilding of Le Havre is punctuated by his last work, St. Joseph's Church (195255), a kind of "spiritual lighthouse" that towers some 350 feet above the city.

Bibliography: a. henze and t. filthaut, Contemporary Church Art, ed. m. lavanoux, tr. c. hastings (New York 1956) 2123. j. pichard, Modern Church Architecture, tr. e. callmann (New York 1962). b. champigneulle, Perret (Paris 1959). g. e. kidder smith, The New Architecture of Europe (Cleveland 1961) 105106; The New Churches of Europe (New York 1964).

[g. e. kidder smith]

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Auguste Perret