Minuscule clusters of visitors ascend a monumental stairway at the base of a spherical monument rising higher than the Great Pyramid of Giza. An arc of waning sunlight catches a small portion of the sphere, leaving the excavated entry portal and much of the mass in deep shadow. Bringing together the emotional affects of romanticism, the severe rationality of neoclassicism and grandeur of antiquity, Etienne-Louis Boullée’s sublime vision for a cenotaph honoring Sir Isaac Newton is both emblematic of the particular historical precipice and an artistic feat that foreshadowed the modern conception of architectural design. Rendered through a series of ink and wash drawings, the memorial was one of numerous provocative designs he created at the end of the eighteenth century and included in his treatise, Architecture, essai sur l’art. The cenotaph is a poetic homage to scientist Sir Isaac Newton who 150 years after his death had become a revered symbol of Enlightenment ideals.
Beyond representing his individual creative genius, Boullée’s approach to design signaled the schism of architecture as a pure art from the science of building. He rejected the Vitruvian notion of architecture as the art of building, writing “In order to execute, it is first necessary to conceive… It is this product of the mind, this process of creation, that constitutes architecture…” (1). The purpose of design is to envision, to inspire, to make manifest a conceptual idea though spatial forms. Boullee’s search was for an immutable and totalizing architecture.
Architects: Atelier du Pont
Location: 25 Rue Michel le Comte, 75003 Paris, France
Architect In Charge: Anne-Cécile Comar, Philippe Croisier, Stéphane Pertusier
Design Team: Alice Berthelon, Aline Defert, Ariane Rouveyrol
Area: 4500.0 sqm
Photographs: Frédéric Delangle
Architects: NAS Architecture
Location: 4 Esplanade Maurice Justin, 34280 La Grande-Motte, France
Architect In Charge: Hadrien Balalud De Saint Jean, Guillaume Giraud, Johan Laure
Client: Festival of Lively Architecture (FAV)
Area: 20.0 sqm
Photographs: Paul Kozlowski