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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Presque Un Monument: Republican Urbanism and the Commercial Architecture of the Rue Réaumur (1896-1900)
by Zirnheld, Bernard Paul, Ph.D., Yale University, 2018, 399; 10957349
Abstract (Summary)

The Rue Réaumur, cleared and constructed between 1896 and 1900, was the first major urbanism project initiated in central Paris after the dismissal of Haussmann. Realized under the Third Republic and under the guidance of a democratically elected Paris Municipal Council, the street provoked an unprecedented public debate about urbanist priorities, the management of municipal debt, and architectural aesthetics. Disappointed with the visual homogeneity of the Haussmannian boulevard, Councilors liberalized building code and declared a Concours des Façades in the Rue Réaumur in order to visually revitalize their city.

That variation of the streetscape would turn on a monumentalization of the urban party-wall building through enlarged saillies and avant-propos, corbelled façade elements hitherto banned in the streets of Paris. Conceived as a central business district, the Rue Réaumur was also a unique concentration of commercial architecture, which encouraged an expanded use of iron structure to open building interiors and façades into naturally illuminated, floor-through spaces of manufacture. Construction in the Rue Réaumur was, then, guided by contradictory impulses. Charged with psychically countering the uniformity of the rationalized city, the exuberant elevations of the new street simultaneously masked a reordering of the architectural object by similar pressures towards economic and technological efficiency.

This dissertation treats the architecture of the Rue Réaumur and the public debate that shaped it as mutually determining engagements of architectural modernity. It situates the street's evolution as a response to the political, economic, spatial, and psychic challenges posed by the emerging capitalist metropolis. Reconstruction of the architectural and social discourses that informed design practice in the Rue Réaumur positions late-century eclecticism as an indispensable step in the development of interwar Parisian modernism. That architecture served as the primary object of rejection within modernist historiography and avant-garde theory due to its reliance on historical vocabularies. This study demonstrates that the perceptual immediacy desired of the late-century Parisian façade was of equal importance to the development of architectural modernism as theories of structural rationalism. It considers eclecticist architecture like that of the Rue Réaumur as a moment of dynamic invention within nineteenth-century theory and design practice, the terms of which would integrally condition Le Corbusier's reconception of architecture and architectural aesthetics a generation later.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Armstrong, Carol
School: Yale University
School Location: United States -- Connecticut
Source: DAI-A 79/12(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Art history, Architecture, Urban planning
Keywords: Commerical Architecture, Historical Eclecticism, Iron Structure, Le Corbusier, Nineteenth-Century Urbanism, Rue Reaumur - Paris
Publication Number: 10957349
ISBN: 978-0-438-27394-8
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