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Caractère Types and the Beaux - Arts Tradition: Interpreting Academic Typologies of Form and Decorum

Journal: Athens Journal of Architecture (Vol.3, No. 3)

Publication Date:

Authors : ;

Page : 227-250

Keywords : ;

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The articulation of caractère types, or variations and qualities of architectural caractère, in Beaux-Arts interiors and how they transposed when translated in another culture are infrequently explored in design historical scholarship. Discerning the theories and doctrines of caractère types in French academic architecture will help illuminate the Académie's paramount objectives and also distinguish its intended meanings across cultures. This study asked (1) what historical and theoretical principles underlay the primary expressions of architectural caractère in the French Beaux-Arts tradition, and (2) how did caractère expressions manifest in Beaux-Arts interiors in France and abroad? It argues that the French Académie developed caractère types to communicate specific information about artistic history and contemporary society, in terms of tradition, purpose, and ingenuity. The paper's research methodology integrated literary analysis of period works, content analysis of architects' documents, material culture analysis of interiors, and iconographical analysis of symbolism. The study finds that preeminent caractère types in Beaux-Arts interiors, consistently reflected each room's purpose and its social importance through a classical and art historical form language that visually persisted when interpreted beyond France. Further, the connotations of visual social hierarchies varied over time and by location, and were individualized through discreet cultural semiotics, making the French architectural tradition germane to other sovereign states. The information is of value to academicians and practitioners, including historic preservationists and contemporary Neo Beaux-Arts classicists.

Last modified: 2017-03-24 20:51:03