Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Eclecticism: the Influence of the Ecole Des Beaux-Arts.

Eclecticism: the Influence of the Ecole Des Beaux-Arts.

“The Paris Ecole, really the first truly professional school of architecture” (Pile, 301). In Paris, the Ecole school developed a new style of teaching that focused on the history of Architecture, especially focusing on the architecture of classical antiquity. “Fashions drew from (historicism) and travel,..” (Raizman, 31); historical backgrounds were the concept of the School, as seen in the Paris Opera HouseThe Influence from all ways of the past, from Classic Greece to the palace’s of France. The school took ideas from the past and melded them together into a new style; Eclecticism.

Jean-Louis Charles Garnier designed the Paris Opera House, making a major statement of the influence of the Ecole Des Beaux-Arts in Paris espically.

The influence of the Paris Ecole spread to the United States; “Richard Morris Hunt was at the vanguard of the Beaux Arts of America” (Pile, 303). Hunt’s influence was greatly shown in buildings commissioned by William K. Vanderbilt who commissioned Hunt to do several works, including the Marble House in Newport, Rhode Island.

The Corinthian columns show a clear reference to the classical architecture style, keeping in the style of Beaux Arts from the Paris Ecole.

Eventually, the failure of the application of historic elements to the high rise buildings lead to the downfall of the Eclecticism movement. But what did the Paris Ecole school do for the world of design? Can we argue that the grandiose buildings were a symbol of the accomplishments of the predecessors of architecture up to this point? Or should we say that at this point in time the Architects ran out of original ideas?


Melissa Long said...

I believe more importantly than the architects the school Paris Ecole produced was the standards the school developed for teaching design. The use of a “critic” and a “judge” can both be seen in our studio day to day. It is amazing that the developed the process so late in the evolution of architecture that it managed to stick with us till today. Possibly because we still use this structure of design today is why most of our designs come from a historic precedent.

I would argue that the grandiose buildings the architects of the Paris Ecole school were a symbol of accomplishments of THEIR work and even the peoples work who commission them. The impact of the Vanderbilt’s not only helped industrialize American culture, but through their new houses by Hunt helped establish the standard of fine living. Hunt, and other architects, simply drew from other great and rich periods of design to help symbolize the success of this time period.

I don’t think architects ran out of original ideas, just at this time period originality wasn’t as highly valued. People were trying to live up to the standard of the past, and having a blog architecture house wouldn’t conceive the image of high society. Times and standards were simply different than today, though I would argue any one of us would settle for a house designed my Hunt today.

Robin said...

First off, I DEFINITELY would settle for a house designed by Hunt. (Although I do feel lost and small and overwhelmed, even with the crowds, when I've been to Biltmore!)

But back to the discussion at hand. If it did nothing else but establish a pedagogical model for teaching architecture and design the Ecole des Beaux Arts would have made a major contribution. I'm glad to have the opportunity to learn in a structured and well-thought out curriculum and to have the flexibility and interaction of studio. Thank you, EdBA.

As we know design is cyclical and the fact the the Ecole des Beaux Arts emerged in a way and time that valued historicism, maybe even to a fault, seems to me as much circumstances of time and place as anything. Most approaches and ideas eventually play out, morph, crash of dead weight. So, it's not surprising that the lesser accomplishments and rigid ideology of the Ecole would have their critics.

But it seems to me that the Ecole catalogued the forms and types of western architecture, grounded students in inherited history and approaches, and made some room for the use of traditional design elements in new ways. On balance, that's a good thing.

And, personally, I like a lot of the public architecture in the U.S. that came out of that training and approach. We have a really beautiful post office in Harlan, Kentucky, and it's in that style. It isn't grandiose, especially, but it does signal that our little town is something, that we belong. And is the New York Public Library an accomplishment in its own right? I think so.

I think Melissa nailed it with her observation that architects trained or influenced by the Ecole des Beaux Arts probably did not run out of original ideas, but that they practiced when other design values held sway.

I appreciate the contributions of the eclectic period of design, and I am also very glad that things change and we have lots of new ideas and approaches and very different kinds of architecture as well.

meagan_mckee said...

I completely agree with Robin and Melissa; the Paris Ecole, without question, set the standard of teaching. The professionalism and authority by which the school was run is something I feel most every architecture/design school does or should strive towards. Because of the day and age, and where we are architecturally, our design concepts are varied and not at driven by strictly classicism like they were at the Paris Ecole, but we still expect incredible design through the same process or analysis of past creations.
As for architects running out of original ideas: no way. Like Professor McNabb said on numerous occasions, you cannot reinvent the wheel. During the era of Eclecticism, originality was frowned upon, so why should we have expected ‘out of the box’ ideas from architects? They did exactly what was desired by the people of the time and most did it with a sense of grandiose that even I find appealing to look at today.
The architecture that came from Eclecticism is clearly some of the finest ever. We have not redone most of the buildings in Washington D.C. from then because we still value the meaning and symbolism that was initially indented which says a lot when you take into consideration the time difference and what we build today.

kengelman said...

Like everyone else has stated the Ecole des Beaux Arts set the standard of teaching today. Who knows where we would be today in design school if a process wasn't started at the Paris Ecole. We would never learn the design process. We would have never learned what it was like to go in front of a judge to present our ideas. I feel like our schooling today would be on a totally different level and who knows if we would have been able to accomplish the things that architects and designers have accomplished with the schooling that was first taught at the Ecole des Beaux Arts.

In response to the question, did the architects run out of ideas, like Meagan said, "You can't reinvent the wheel". The architects were just doing what the people of that time wanted to see. Much like now everything is moving towards modern green design so most of the architects are doing that. The architect builds whatever is popular at that time and if that happens to be historicism then you use models from history to build new works. Its not that they ran out of ideas they were taking already built spaces and reinventing them to that time's standards.

Jenna Martini said...

I completely agree with the view that the Paris Ecole set the standard of teaching design. The school set the bar high for design, FINALLY. The standards the school set created a path for the design development and schematic phase of design as inspiration and success as a whole. The bar the school set has definitely influenced and has been the entire support behind design schools today.

I can personally say, as a student in a design school which is so credited, I am infatuated by the entire design process and the mere fact we have a support system for our ideas as designers. All designers, due to the success of Paris Ecole, can expect the formation of successful designs through a process.

Lastly, architects running out of ideas? There is always a way to expand beyond the box. Especially as designers, there is no way ideas can run out! Architecture and Design always need inspiration, but original designs are just around the corner.

Angela said...

I agree with everyone else that the Ecole Des Beaux-Arts School spread knowledge of architecture and set teaching standards all around the world. Honestly, I have to admit that if this school wasn’t built in the late 19th/early 20th century, someone along the years would have thought of this same idea of inventing the first “design school” because of my strong belief that ideas are always swarming around and developing. The aspect that makes this school significantly diverse from other schools is that it was influenced by eclecticism which includes the ideas of historicism, revivalism and traditionalism.

This school was very strict in the fact that it was very professional and students were often critiqued and criticized when proposing an idea. The Paris Ecole School easily spread the idea of having the “freedom to explore things from the past and recreating them in the present” by students from all around the world attending the school and then going home to practice these inspirations.

I find it very interesting that Louis Sullivan, an architect known during the Art Nouveau style, attended the Beaux Art School and then dropped out because his drive was denied. Dominantly everyone strongly believed in eclecticism and bringing inspirations from the past except Sullivan. He strongly believed in originality and expanding new ideas and people looked down upon him for that.

There is no such thing as running out of ideas. In studio when working on the millions of sketches we have had to do, even though we may have a design blockage at times (meaning we can’t think of any new ideas) there is always something that can be critiqued or things we can be inspired by, it’s just a matter of finding them. But during this time period original ideas didn’t come to an end, they just weren’t valued like they are today. I personally love the idea of originality like that of Louis Sullivan creating something new and exciting that no one has seen before.

Abby said...

"If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

We've all heard it before, and apparently it's an ideal that the founders of The Ecole des Beaux-Arts firmly believed. As all of my classmates have so eloquently stated previously, the students and professor of the Ecole did not run out of ideas--they simply had a great appreciation of what had already been created by the Romans, the Victorian period and other classical motifs. Many people today still have a deep appreciation for these design elements, and it is apparent in many buildings and interiors still. Columns will probably always be a part of important buildings and houses of the wealthy because they are symbolic of wealth, power and great achievement. They are obviously an important structural element, but they will forever be classically ornamented to create a connection to the astounding accomplishments and governmental organizations of the Romans. Our own country has used (especially in government buildings) classical motifs in designs for several decades because it reiterates the idea that we are a leading world power and our government is the best. Maybe when swoopy, curving Frank Gehry-esk architecture symbolizes that one place (region, state, country) is leading the way or the wealthiest, we will tear down these Eclectic buildings to make way for the ones that reinforce this idea.

If you love something (we all have our own preferences in time periods and styles) don't leave it! Movie theaters are a great example of the use of Eclectic style which has survived today. Take a look at the Kentucky Theater on Main Street downtown, it’s a lovely example. Eclecticism is not a negative period of architecture, even though the designers of the time were simply repeating motifs of the past. Taking an old design and reinventing it is a practice that architects and designers have done and always will do, and it results in NEW designs that pay homage to the past.

Although the Ecole des Beaux-Arts rejected originality and the movement to modernity, but perhaps this was actually a necessary step to moving towards new thinking/designs. A rebellion takes place when people want to overthrow a ruling government—in this case architects such as Louis Sullivan left the EdBA to begin creating his own modern designs. The Ecole des Beaux-Arts had two primary and beneficial effects on the world of architecture and design: the style of critiquing used in the classroom today and the building of America’s governmental buildings to establish an air of wealth, power and prestige in this country. Thanks EdBA!

Vinti said...

The method of teaching architecture and design based on historic precedent set forth by the Paris Ecole, is by far the most important contribution of the Eclectic period. We still follow the same ways of presenting, critiquing and refining out ideas based on critique. We also take inspirations from historic precedents to design new ideas. In our time the historic precedents are the Sydney Opera House  and the Casa Batllo *Melissa smiles*. However, we differ from the Eclectic style in two ways. Fisrtly, we do not imitate the historic precedent. We abstract it, deconstruct it and reproduce its essence, or even better, create new essence. Secondly, we are more forward looking in paying attention to how current trends lead toward a newer, more futuristic design. Hence, EdBA gave us a way of studying design in a very efficient way and also incorporating the accomplishments of our predecessors into our design. Personally, I am still fascinated by the classical Roman architecture, and the tall Gothic interiors.

I do not believe that the architects of the Eclectic period ran out of ideas. They simply went with the flow of time. Even though a lot of architecture of the time was mere imitation of the past, we still value those public buildings as symbolic architecture, especially in the U.S. They do represent the strength of the society.

This blog is intended for the interior design students in the college of design at the University of Kentucky. It was created with the intent to present students with information, providing them with a channel for contemplation and discussion.