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  The term Beaux-Arts, in European architecture, is used to describe the rich, classically inspired architecture of the practitioners trained in the École des Beaux Arts in Paris, in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

The central ideal of the school was classicism. It was subject to considerable interpretation, as students sought to apply ‘classical’ rules to what they perceived to be the essence of the building task, until they arrived at an appropriate compositional expression. This method of learning—pupils were lectured in mathematics, perspective, stereotomy, construction and the history of architecture, while design was taught in the studios of practising architects—produced an inventive, intentionally monumental and impressive style. Students competed for the Grand Prix de Rome, the prize for which was an extended period of study in Rome, in preparation for a career in the design of governmental commissions.

The grand town planning schemes carried out by Baron Haussmann (for example his redesign of Paris as a radial system of boulevards linked by transverse streets) also exemplify the architecture of the Beaux Arts, which is sometimes called ‘Second Empire Style’. In the later part of the 19th century, it was widely used across North and South America, often translating the inventive classical form into timber rather than stone.

As the École des Beaux-Arts was perhaps the most significant formal school of architecture in Europe from 1819 to 1914, and was widely influential on architects from all over Europe and America, it served first as a prototype for architectural education, and then as a symbol for traditionalist architectural establishment against which the growing modernism movement would measure itself. In the later 20th century some postmodernist theorists have given considerable attention to the approach of the Beaux-Arts school. JM

See also neoclassicism.Further reading R. Middleton (ed.), The Beaux Arts and 19th century French Architecture; , A. Drexler (ed.), The Architecture of the Ecole Des Beaux Arts.



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