Henri Labrouste


July 5, 2022

Pierre-Francois-Henri Labrouste (Paris, 11 May 1801 - Fontainebleau, 24 June 1875) was a French architect, considered one of the most sensitive interpreters of the so-called "engineering architecture".



Henri Labrouste completed his first training in the atelier of Hippolyte Lebas and Antoine Vaudoyer, where he remained until 1819, when he moved to the École Royale des Beaux Arts. The first recognition was obtained in 1824 by winning with the project of the Cour de Cassation the second prize at the Prix de Rome, a scholarship that guaranteed the winners a five-year artistic improvement in the laborious workshop of the Eternal City. stimuli, we are left with a conspicuous amount of drawings. Here he was influenced by Jean-Nicolas Huyot (1780-1840), his teacher at the École, from whom he derived the idea that there were nobler ideals, more "true" than those proposed by the classical world and its major promoters, such as Antoine Chrysostome Quatremère de Quincy. However, he deviated from the master's model in that he did not appreciate the monuments in their "abstract beauty", but was concerned with investigating their structural problems. In recent years, the editorial staff of La restauration des temples de Paestum was very significant. sent to Paris as the final essay of his fourth Roman year. The work was made up of various drawings depicting the three temples of Paestum, accompanied by a report that concerned itself with investigating their state of conservation and rereading their chronology. The three buildings, in fact, until then were seen as the apotheosis of a timeless canon. Labrouste, on the contrary, deprived them of a simple historical phenomenon generated by a local identity, precisely that of the Greek colonists: "A pure and simple revolution", Viollet le Duc would later comment, "which undermined the foundations of an academic religion". The work, in fact, once it arrived in Paris sparked a bitter debate between Horace Vernet, director of the Académie de France in Rome, and Quatremère de Quincy, sécrétaire perpétuel de l'Académie in Paris, and is one of the testimonies more precious than Labrouste's intolerance to academic canons.

Labrouste maître d’atelier

Labrouste, despite the notoriety acquired with La restauration des temples de Paestum, after his repatriation complained about scarce professional opportunities: his works of these years, in any case, are a small deposit in the Île de Cygne, the project for decoration and furniture of the Pont de la Concorde (laid with the help of his brother Théodore), some tombs and ephemeral architecture for the arrival in Paris of the remains of Napoleon Bonaparte. educational, which rewarded him for the difficulties encountered in the concrete planning sphere. In fact, at the beginning of the 1830s, Labrouste opened a private school of architecture, where he welcomed all those young architects who wanted to break free from the academic system and academic customs of the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. Labrouste was the maître of the atelier until 1854, revealing himself to be a distinctly liberalist teacher: in fact he exhorted his students to understand the formal and constructive principles of the various architectural organisms studied, to the point that one of his students would later recall that " he did not allow a project to be conceived without already knowing the means to carry it out. "In the meantime Labrouste was comfortable designing buildings destined to become famous, such as the Sainte-Geneviève library and the Bibliothèque Nationale: he finally died on 24 June 1875.


As we have already said, Labrouste was one of the most significant exponents of the so-called «architecture of engineers