Perret, Auguste

Perret, Auguste
b. 12 February 1874 Ixelles, near Brussels, Belgium
d. 26 February 1954 Le Havre (?), France
French architect who pioneered and established building design in reinforced concrete in a style suited to the modern movement.
Auguste Perret belonged to the family contracting firm of A. \& G.Perret, which early specialized in the use of reinforced concrete. His eight-storey building at 25 bis Rue Franklin in Paris, built in 1902–3, was the first example of frame construction in this material and established its viability for structural design. Both ground plan and façade are uncompromisingly modern, the simplicity of the latter being relieved by unobtrusive faience decoration. The two upper floors, which are set back, and the open terrace roof garden set a pattern for future schemes. All of Perret's buildings had reinforced-concrete structures and this was clearly delineated on the façade designs. The concept was uncommon in Europe at the time, when eclecticism still largely ruled, but was derived from the late nineteenth-century skyscraper façades built by Louis Sullivan in America. In 1905–6 came Perret's Garage Ponthieu in Paris; a striking example of exposed concrete, it had a central façade window glazed in modern design in rich colours. By the 1920s ferroconcrete was in more common use, but Perret still led the field in France with his imaginative, bold use of the material. His most original structure is the Church of Notre Dame at Le Raincy on the outskirts of Paris (1922–3). The imposing exterior with its tall tower in diminishing stages is finely designed, but the interior has magnificence. It is a wide, light church, the segmented vaulted roof supported on slender columns. The whole structure is in concrete apart from the glass window panels, which extend the full height of the walls all around the church. They provide a symphony of colour culminating in deep blue behind the altar. Because of the slenderness of the columns and the richness of the glass, this church possesses a spiritual atmosphere and unimpeded sight and sound of and from the altar for everyone. It became the prototype for churches all over Europe for decades, from Moser in prewar Switzerland to Spence's postwar Coventry Cathedral.
In a long working life Perret designed buildings for a wide range of purposes, adhering to his preference for ferroconcrete and adapting its use according to each building's needs. In the 1940s he was responsible for the railway station at Amiens, the Atomic Centre at Saclay and, one of his last important works, the redevelopment after wartime damage of the town centre of Le Havre. For the latter, he laid out large open squares enclosed by prefabricated units, which display a certain monotony, despite the imposing town hall and Church of St Joseph in the Place de L'Hôtel de Ville.
Principal Honours and Distinctions
President des Réunions Internationales des Architectes. American Society of the French Legion of Honour Gold Medal 1950. Elected after the Second World War to the Institut de France. First President of the International Union of Architects on its creation in 1948. RIBA Royal Gold Medal 1948.
Further Reading
P.Blater, 1939, "Work of the architect A.Perret", Architektura SSSR (Moscow) 7:57 (illustrated article).
1848 "Auguste Perret: a pioneer in reinforced concrete", Civil Engineers' Review, pp.
Peter Collins, 1959, Concrete: The Vision of a New Architecture: A Study of Auguste Perret and his Precursors, Faber \& Faber.
Marcel Zahar, 1959, D'Une Doctrine d'Architecture: Auguste Perret, Paris: Vincent Fréal.

Biographical history of technology. - Taylor & Francis e-Librar. . 2005.

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