Friday, June 6, 2008
Rue Franklin Apartments
"Construction is the architect's mother tongue; the architect is a poet who thinks and speaks in construction."
– Auguste Perret (architect 1874-1954)
Concrete found its visionary in Belgian-born Auguste Perret. With his brothers Gustave and Claude, Perret inherited a construction company from his father. Auguste immediately set himself up as an architect, before he had even completed the necessary formal training. His buildings are meticulously planned, innovative, and absolutely Modern. Perret found inspiration in the Cubist movement (later he even built a Montparnasse house for Cubist Georges Braque.) He was unfettered by traditional approaches to building and studied the new materials carefully. But he also valued craftsmanship. Auguste learned stone-cutting from his father and studied the writings of Viollet-le-Duc, the 19th-century restorer of Notre Dame. Even so, Perret is known as the architect of two Paris landmarks constructed of concrete: the apartment building on Rue Benjamin Franklin and the famed Théâtre des Champs-Élysée (Ave. Montaigne).
The 1904 Franklin apartment building is very early for the Modern period, but it’s one of the turning points in architectural history. It stands between Art Nouveau and Art Deco in appearance. Perret rejected the fluid lines of Art Nouveau and threw himself into the radical new art of Cubism, but he had not yet decided to expose unadorned concrete. Instead, he chose to cover his building in effusive floral earthenware tiles by Alexandre Bigot, which have aged magnificently.
The structure of the building depends on reinforced concrete posts, never before attempted in residential architecture. Therefore, the traditional load-bearing support walls were eliminated, allowing the apartments to have an open plan that anticipates Le Corbusier.
Window projections are angled to give maximum light and excellent views (the Eiffel Tower looms just across the park and river), while eliminating the traditional Paris courtyard. As the building’s neighbors refused to allow windows in the back of the building, to light the rear stairwells, Perret introduced glass brick, which later became a crucial material in Moderne and Art Deco design. These apartments all have stunning views of the Eiffel Tower.
Address: 25 bis Rue Benjamin Franklin, 16th. Auguste Perret & brothers, 1904.