The Art of Viollet-le-Duc

Tudor Edwards introduces the Second-Empire architect who was at once a fanatical restorer in the Gothic style and a daring speculator in new architectural thought.

Under the Second Empire, two men were constantly in the presence of Napoleon III in the Tuileries, in a little room near the Emperor’s sanctum where large tables were almost perpetually covered with maps. Both were architects; and they were rarely, if ever, there together; for by conviction and execution they were diametrically opposed. An orgy of building and planning had begun; and, during Napoleon’s eighteen-year reign, over £600,000,000 was spent on public buildings in Paris alone; while provincial towns, like Lyons and Marseilles, were the scenes of a similar prodigality.

The two men who had so great a share of the Emperor’s confidence, and bore so heavy a burden of responsibility, were Eugene-Georges Haussmann and Eugene-Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc. The first dominated the history of town-planning in the nineteenth century. The second was an arch-restorer, the Gilbert Scott of France.

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