Jean-Jacques Lequeu: The Architectural Imagination in the Age of Reason, with Barry Bergdoll
So, first of all, I'd like to, a little on a sad note, I hope you can see that I have, since this lecture has to do with what I'm calling "Jean-Jacques Lequeu: The architectural imagination in the Age of Reason", and of course we're in an age, it doesn't seem so reasonable, but I think as we move along, you're going to find that Jean-Jacques Lequeu, has a very extraordinary imagination and you might wonder what is the relationship to the Age of Reason, and in this a rather anxious moment, I wanted also to dedicate this lecture to the memory of two dear friends who we have lost recently, although not one of them to the terrible virus. So, to turn to the subject of tonight, I'm going to demolish first of all, the myth of three revolutionary architects and talk about how that was put in place. And then I'm going to try to suggest some ways in which the absolutely extraordinary imagination as well as the hundreds of drawings we know by a figure who in his time was a virtual unknown Jean-Jacques Lequeu, how they might be understood today. My hope is of course that some of you will get a chance, that this current crisis will allow us to see the exhibition that is currently on view, I imagine under black drapes to protect these watercolors, these precious works of paper that on paper that have come from the national library in France, the bibliotheque nationale de france. This is the third iteration of an exhibition that started last autumn.
Oh, excuse me, the autumn before in Paris, and then was presented at the new drawing Institute in Houston at the Menil, for which I first prepared a version of this lecture. Here's some views of the exhibition at the Morgan. Some of you might have seen it, it was up for a few weeks before the Morgan, like all museums in New York, had to close.
But happily just to give you some notations there of dates, and some titillation--it might make you want to go and see it, and maybe not take your children through the whole part, if in fact the exhibition is available for viewing before its official closing date of the 13th of September, 2020. I'm not going to dwell on the images on the screen, you'll be either relieved or disappointed to know. I want to assure you, that the erotic imagination will recur in the course the next 45 minutes when I want to talk to you about this extraordinary figure of Jean-Jacques Lequeu. This is an iPhone photograph of the large blow up of one of the drawings. But I think, as you can see, they are of an extraordinary technique and extraordinary subtly, both as works of art on paper, but also as you can see, in the image on the right, they are filled with voluminous and often extremely weird text, much of which has yet to be fully interpreted.
But we'll get to that towards the end. Indeed, I would say, here's a presentation of Jean-Jacques Lequeu, he executed any number of self portraits, although we know of no portrait by someone else of him, what he might actually have looked like. We only know the way he filtered himself through his own imagination and his self presentation here. But I would start out by saying that it could not be more appropriate that this first ever monographic exhibition on one of the most singularly idiosyncratic, you're going to see weird and strange architects of 18th century France, indeed, I guess one of the most idiosyncratic, the entire history of modern architecture, should arrive at the Morgan library from Houston. For it was in Houston and then in New York that Lequeu's captivating, if mystifying, drawings were first presented in the United States just over a half century ago, 50 years ago, in the remarkable exhibition, visionary architects mounted largely on the initiative of Dominique de Menil, now famous to us as one of the creators of The Menil Collection at the university of St Thomas in Houston, from October, 1967 to January, 1968, so almost precisely, 52 years ago. That exhibition included 33 original drawings from the stash of some 770, which Lequeu, who you see here gazing at us from two different moments in his life, from the 770 which Lequeu left to the library in July, 1825 shortly before his death, many of which are also included in the small, present selection at the Morgan library.
Now, the 1967 show was also an adaptation of an exhibition that had been first shown in Paris, various French provincial cities, and then Geneva in 1964 to 1965 under the title visionary architects. It celebrated the extraordinary renderings of completely hypothetical buildings like the ones you see here, done by a group of French architects in the decades flanking the French revolution of 1789 to 99 including--of course here Lequeu, probably one of his most reproduced drawings from that almost 800 in the library--including primarily the trio of Étienne-Louis Boullée, who also left his drawings to the Royal library two decades before Lequeu in the 1780s. I'm showing you here his design for a museum, his library, and a project here for a museum. Interestingly, the museum in which no works of art are visible other than the work of art you're looking at, and the library where nothing is visible but books.
Along with Boullée in the exhibition visionary architects was Claude Nicolas Ledoux, whose projects had been published in a lavish portfolio. You see the frontispiece of that here: "L'Architecture considérée sous le rapport de l'art des moeurs et de la législation" (architecture considered in relationship to art, to mores, and to legislation). And of course our subject of tonight, Jean-Jacques Lequeu. I'm showing you here of course, Ledoux, we'll return to the matrix for all of his projects, the famous ideal city of Chaux, with at its heart, the saltworks realized at Arc-et-Senans, near Besançon. And here another one of the famous drawings of Lequeu. An interesting thing about this exhibition is of course some of the greatest hits of Lequeu that had been reproduced over and over again, and which figure very largely in the historiographical construction I'm about to construct for you only to demolish it and leave the ground a fresh for us to think how would we understand Lequeu today and in his own terms as an individual creator rather than as part of this group that was first created in the 1930s through 1960s. There were also in this exhibition, a few spectacular drawings by architects considered to be the followers of Boullée, Ledoux, and Lequeu.
I'm showing you here Pierre-François-Léonard Fontaine, of Percier and Fontaine, who was referred to in the introduction because of the recent publication by the Institute of Percier and Fontaine's books. This is his Prix de Rome project 1783, a sepulchral monument for the sovereign of a great nation. This is a tomb for a single person.
All of these in the path that led away from the conventions of the day towards a radical vision of architectural form and function, which came to a crashing halt, or so the story that we're about to see put together, the story that came crashing to a halt with the rise of historicist eclecticism, a revivalist approach to classical tradition in the opening decade of the 19th century buildings such as the Madeleine. So the question was, what is the relationship between these radical projects, of the late 18th century, and the architecture that followed? Now the 1967-68 exhibition, Visionary Architects, did a great deal to advance a line of thinking that had been gaining force in art historical circles since the first modern publication on Ledoux some 30 years earlier. Here, let's stay with Boullée for a moment, some more Boullée drawings for you.
Some 30 years earlier by the Austrian art historian Emil Kaufmann, the line he developed was echoed in Dominique de Menil's preface to the catalog. So let me find for you the catalog. Here's the catalog of that exhibition back here, I wanted you to see the detailed way--this detail is extracted from the drawing on the right. You're actually looking, if I can get my pointer into the screen, at the detail taken from right here. See that area there? Which is this area on the cover of the 1967 catalog. So that line that Kaufmann, we'll return to him in a moment, was developing over decades from the late 1920s was echoed in Dominique de Menil's preface to the 1967 exhibition catalog. She writes, "Today
historians and architects look at Boullée's drawings with an eye trained by modern architecture, and they find in them innovations that anticipate modern design, the drawings purely visionary have an immediate impact on our sensibilities". So we hear here echoing what is going to be my theme, the way in which Boullée, Ledoux, and Lequeu were--two things were happening. One was that they were constructed as a trio. It seemed to make them almost an inseparable, a bunch of revolutionary visionary architects who made common cause.
So I'm going to show you completely a figment of the imagination of some historians. And secondly, they were seen as people who were looking far into the future rather than people who were formed by informative of their time. So Dominique de Menil's statement in fact echoes the claim of the Bibliotheque Nationale curator, Jean-Claude Lemagny, in the same catalog where she writes the [quote], "the revolutionary architects" (as he calls the trio) "have a longing for cubist simplicity, and yet a wish to arouse emotion through the most expressive forms". Their work embodied specific features that anticipate the taste of our own time". Boullée, as I said,
graced the cover of the catalog and, we go ahead to my next slide of the catalog, and none other than Louis Kahn, our contemporary sensibilities, wrote a poem as a prelude, which I'll leave up there for a moment. You can see Kahn's poem, penned on the occasion of the exhibition and dedicated to Boullée and Ledoux, he doesn't actually mention Lequeu. It was not, however, the first introduction of this trio of architects to America.
This had come a decade earlier in the first English, major English, language publication of the eminent art and architectural historian, Emil Kaufmann, the refugee scholar in America since the German annexation of his Austrian homeland in 1938. Three revolutionary architects, you see it on the left here, published in 1952 now admittedly, a rather rarefied venue, the transactions of The American Philosophical Society. The society, interestingly, which came out of the same milieu as many of the inspirations for the three architects we're looking at tonight. That society having been founded in Philadelphia in 1742, 15 years before Lequeu was born in Rouen in 1757. Now, Kaufmann built upon a fundamental line of his first published work, you see on the right, developed from his doctoral dissertation with the title "Von Ledoux bis Le Corbusier: Ursprung und Entwicklung der Autonomen Architektur" , which we could translate as from Ledoux to Le Corbusier, one of these modernist from-to notions that everything in between falls away, from Ledoux to Le Corbusier: origins and development of autonomous architecture.
What in the world that might mean? Published in Vienna in 1933, both his tracing of an investigation of underlying abstract forms of composition in architecture and his notion of an architecture of autonomous form, found by the time the Nazis arrived, little enthusiastic audience in 1930s Austria. They were falling under the sway of Albert Speer, not of the architects of pre-revolutionary France. The notion of an architecture with no iconography and no political purpose was not a national socialist line of cultural thinking. It was in the United States that Kaufmann's ideas were to be influential in the further development of the notion that radical aesthetic experimentations in architectural abstraction had taken place in late 18th century France, experiments in which forms were autonomous from any system of iconographic reference, and that propose new forms of architecture every bit as radical.
Ah, here we have from Ledoux to Le Corbusier. You can see this kind of cubist idea of sensibility, comparing this famous drawing that is in Corbusier's Towards a New Architecture here, where he extracts spheres and pyramids and pure forms from the architecture of classical realm. And then comparing Corbusier's Villa Savoye with in between some of the projects of Ledoux that you also see on the cover of the original edition of the book in 1933. So Kaufmann proposing that new forms of architecture,
every bit as radical as the attempts to create new bases of political and social revolutions, relations with the French revolution of 1789. Now, by 1952 autonomous architecture had become revolutionary architecture in Kaufmann's writings. And this was the term that Lemagny used to characterize them a decade later, the issue of an aesthetic revolution before the political revolution of architects who created seemingly unprecedented architecture for aristocratic clients, which Boulée and Ledoux had in abundance and to which Lequeu, as we'll see, aspired. And even as in the case of Ledoux spent time in prison under the political revolution evoked heated art historical debates. What did it mean to speak of these architects as revolutionary? I think you all recognize the storming of the Bastille in July, 1789 on the right, even if you weren't yourself there.
What was the relationship of the projects done before 1789, to the political experiments and upheavals of the 1790s? Were they really a group with little connection to the larger culture in which they practiced? But soon the idea of revolutionary yielded to a new term: visionary, a term very widely used in the 1960s to describe a type of big thinking, even technological utopianism. It was prevalent in modern architecture's postwar reaction against the new banality of corporate international post World War II modernism. Now here, the museum of modern art had offered a first salvo, although the original drawings that would make the impact of the Menil show in Houston in 1967 and its traveling version--in fact, my partner who I think is listening, remembers seeing these drawings as a teenager, aspiring architect as he was at the time, juxtaposed with what you see on the left here. So Boullée's project for cathedral on the right, which was exhibited in the building on the left, the St.
Louis art museum in 1968. But the original drawings were not present in the MoMA exhibition that you're looking at here of the early 1960s, of 1960 in fact. The idea however was established, you can see the reproduction on the right over here, Boullée's Newton Monument, if you've any idea of Boullée as a precursor of the visionary, had been put on display already then in 1960 at MoMA in a show called visionary architecture. (inaudible) as a press release explained of [quote] "20th century projects considered too revolutionary to build". So this was primarily an exhibition of 20th century modernism. Arthur Drexler, long time head of architecture at MoMA who organized the show explained that [quote] "The true visionary project usually combines a criticism of society with a strong personal preference for certain forms". Here, the genealogy was updated from the purism of Le Corbusier to the utopian and technologically advanced artworks of Louis Kahn.
You see his famous Philadelphia city hall project--where's my cursor, over here--juxtaposed with his Philadelphia center city project. So updating from the purism of Le Corbusier to the utopian and technologically advanced, but still radically geometrically pure work of Louis Kahn and others. So revolutionary and visionary. Along with the notion of a trio of architects, Boullée, Ledoux, and Lequeu, who made common cause with architectural expressions, were situated either outside the normal timeframe of the culture in which they operated, or were in some ways related to the revolutionary change brought about by the French Revolution from 1789 to 1799.
This dynamic trio was now joined at the historiographical hip, as they became prime evidence in one of the key art historical issues of the 1950s and 60s--the definition of a stylistic phase in the late 18th century that could have the unity of the proceeding styles, Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque, and which was hypothesized by Emil Kaufmann and others as romantic classicism. It was the final prelude of cultural unity before what was seen as the cacophony of revivalist styles in the 19th century. And then the final return to aesthetic unity in what had been labeled in 1932 at MoMA, the international style of the modern movement.
Boullée, Ledoux, and Lequeu, however, were architects portrayed paradoxically as floating above their time and culture, beclaimed by various modernist genealogy. Rather than being seen as figures who offered productive lenses for understanding the culture, the late French enlightenment, and the conflicting tension fields of the revolutionary decade and its aftermath, the visionary became a dreamer outside of society. Now it would take more than a generation for this powerful act of mythmaking to begin to unravel.
It was first reinforced--we have to go back the previous slide, we're very historiographical here, you should get college credit as well as AIA credit for listening to me. As far as reinforcing a series of widely read books, in fact, many were used as college textbooks, I use both of these. In Kaufmann's posthumous Magnum Opus, Architecture in the Age of Reason, Baroque and post Baroque in England, Italy, and France, 1955, Ledoux was the hero of the group. "The foremost exponent" Kaufmann explained "the great transformation during the late 18th century". And he went on--in the works which Ledoux created in the short span of about 20 years, Classical and Baroque features showed side by side with features which have only become common in our own era, it's a post war, the post war period, post World War II. The experimentation of the late 18th century was firmly positioned as a forerunner, predictor even, of the modern movement from Ledoux to Le Corbusier.
In the 1960s, the traveling exhibition built on that, the show which traveled after St Louis to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Art Institute of Chicago, and finally the de Young museum in San Francisco, over the course of the year, had a huge impact. In 1971, a somewhat older version was shown in Berlin. It probably played a role, perhaps through the Paris presentation in 1966, in the reappearance of the trio of Ledoux, Boullée, and Lequeu in Robert Rosenblum's celebrated and influential Transformations in Late Eighteenth Century Art of 1967, which positioned the most radical art and architecture of what critics called a great watershed moment in European art, as a prelude to avant-garde modernism of the years on either side of World War I. Rosenblum compared Ingres's reduced linear drawing style to Henri Matisse, notably to the Red Studio, now in the Museum of Modern Art.
And architectural developments, including now the work of the English architect Sir John Soane, were compared with the modernist leaders of the early 20th century. "In their work", he explained, this is Rosenblum, [quote] "A vocabulary of the most rudimentary architectural form is organized by a grammar of highly complex sensibility. In this, Soane, like its finest contemporaries Ledoux, Boullé , Lequeu, often prophesizes the comparable discrepancy between means and ends, experienced in the work of Le Corbusier, and Mies van der Rohe in the 1920s and 1930s, in which the simplest architectural elements, unornamented rectangular planes, lucidly exposed structures, are manipulated with results of high visual ambiguity in the tensions between solid and void, plane and volume, load and support.
I suppose you're all regretting you don't have your Rosenblum with you wherever you are in quarantine. Here again was a history of abstraction then, born in the late 18th century, interrupted by the revivalism of the 19th century, and reborn in the heroic modern movement. The Menil's lecture series confirmed it, due to the lecture's going on for this exhibition. You see how popular it was for 1967? You might recognize Dominique de Menil standing at the lecturn on the left, and next to her Louis Kahn, who had just written a poem I think on the airplane.
And then another grouping over here, you might recognize Dominique de Menil again, Simone Swan who some of you might know, Buckminster Fuller, and Andy Warhol. And Buck--so Louis Kahn offered a talk on [quote] "Architecture of the Incredible", and Buckminster Fuller on "Envisioning the Invisible: 20th Century Speculation on 21st Century Architecture". That would be interesting to revisit. It would take a new generation of architectural historians, and here we're getting to the end of my constructing what I'm going to then spend the rest of our time together deconstructing, to unravel this dynamic trio. And there they are--it's the trio of Boullée, Ledoux, and Lequeu. Here, you can see why it's so tempting to want to put them together as somehow having something in common, if you simply extract from all of their work, these imaginary spheric buildings posed, more or less, lightly on the earth.
The dynamic trio then, which Allan Braham called the three Musketeers, and he began to embed those figures back in time, rather than viewing them as space travelers adrift from their own time with cosmic visions into the future, he began to see them as products of the 18th century itself. Now to give credit fairly, the dissociation had already begun with Henry Russell Hitchcock in his contribution to the Pelican History of Architecture: 19th and 20th Century. Hitchcock was the first to separate the duo of Ledoux and Boulée from Lequeu, being the first two (Boulleé and Ledoux) who in fact had little to do with one another biographically as [quote] "The first great masters of romantic classical design". Even while we're moving Lequeu from the trio emphatically,
and portraying him some 150 pages later as an early and totally inconsequential example of the French dabbling in the picturesque mode, mastered in fact by the British. But the real opening of a whole new epic came with the publication of the book you see here on the screen of Allan Braham's, The Architecture of the French Enlightenment, in 1980 which smashed the whole edifice of progressive, atemporal myths that had been mounted around the trio of architects who worked quite independently from one another. Revolutionary, though, architecture became in the late 18th century, Graham noted, not the least source of its qualities was paradoxically the persistence of traditions that have their origins in the art of the 17th century.
A concern for the effects of light and shade lend dramatic emphasis to buildings, and a preoccupation with conceits that confer a liveliness absent, for the most part, in buildings in the 19th century. His most important claim, I can't recommend this book highly enough to you, that opened the whole field to new study was to dare to break up this ménage à trois that Kaufmann had constructed. Graham writes, and I promise this is my last long quote, "It has long been customary to group together the imaginary designs of Boullée with those of Ledoux and Lequeu, as though these architects were the three heroes, the three Musketeers, of the architectural revolution in France. But three such different artists it would scarcely be possible to imagine. They had little more in common than many fanciful designs by each, that each survive.
To the extent that the ideas underlying his drawings differ greatly from his early architectural project and depend on the inflation of simple geometric shapes, it is Boullée who seems historically the most in advance of his time. It was his vision that younger architects, especially in their drawings to the Academy of Architecture, aspire to emulate and even to anticipate before Boullée's most extreme drawings were produced". For Lequeu he had little positive to say. Lequeu's participation in the design of the Hôtel de Montholon--so here's Lequeu when he was in a working life, and I'm going to segue next to telling you something about his life. But Graham writes "Lequeu's participation in the design of the Hôtel de Montholon and his authorship of drawings in an album of sketches for the interior decoration of the house are almost the only certain facts known about his career. Most of the other projects for which he is now so famous, have been shown to be fantasies of an increasingly deranged mind, however obscure their aesthetic merits", I don't think he likes Lequeu very much, "This may not affect the importance of the designs insofar as they embody and indeed exaggerated (inaudible) ideas, but it distinguishes them from the imaginative but less literary projects of Boullée and Ledoux".
So Graham cleared the way for understanding these three distinct careers, these three lifelong commitments to searching for new architectural languages and problematics of quite distinct nature, as independent, no matter how many parallels one might find. Graham, who discarded the baggage of revolutionary and visionary, and he issued an invitation to restore these architects' individual careers and œuvre to a dialogue with the complex time in which they were conceived, deeply embedded in the complexity of the French enlightenment and not free floating signifiers beckoning a distant 20th century. My only critique of this current splendid exhibition, I hope you'll get to see, is that the title of the Paris version, the Petit Palais exhibition, "Jean-Jacques Lequeu: Bâtisseur de fantasmes"--instructor of fantasies, or fantasma, has been replaced in America by "Lequeu: Visionary Architect", a moving commemoration perhaps to the 1968 exhibition in Houston and New York, but its title invites us to accept old myths, rather then open the paths for new investigations, which is the mission of my remaining remarks. So what do we have if we insist on looking at Lequeu's work as a trio of practices imposed by historians, in which Lequeu seems the eccentric cousin to a pair of purist brothers, Boullée and Ledoux. The parallels are there, but it is more useful to find them after paying attention to Lequeu's corpus, rather than starting with a set of terms taken from the works of Boullée and Ledoux. That is the invitation of this exhibition.
Let's try to put them even beyond our peripheral vision for a moment. Unlike Boullée and Ledoux, Lequeu was not an architect of prominence, with key appointments with prestigious clients and with students. He was not a member of the Academy. He didn't often find a chance to exhibit his work, and his main publication remained an unpublished treatise among the drawings left to the library, the Biblioteque, and Architecture Civile, civil architecture, which you'll see.
The biography is now at least established by the new exhibitions catalog, unfortunately only available in French, and it is a story that profiles a career quite unlike those of Boullée and Ledox. One of those earliest drawings you can see, a very useful drawing, on the right, is a story of a provincial working class lad who, as was often the the intention in the 18th century, had aspirations to transcend his modest social origins to greater prominence, by mastering the arts of drawing. For his father, part of a family of master woodworkers in Rouen, the leading industrializing city of Normandy already Lequeu had produced drawings. At the age of 13, he entered a local École de Dessin. So the context of Rouen, you see the École de Dessin there and you see a building of Lequeu's time under construction in Rouen, The Church of the Madeleine, not to be confused for the church of the same name in Paris. At the age of 13,
he entered the local École de Dessin, the drawing school. I should explain what a École de Dessin was in 18th century France. It is not a drawing school for people who are going to become high artists. It is a school for training people who are going to enter artistan professions, maybe a ceramics workshop, a woodwork workshop.
It is to train teenagers to know how to reproduce drawings, to master drawing activities for the production of everything from furniture, to machines, two crafts. In other words, it is the final education for perfecting a craftsmanship segment of the 18th century working class. But he excelled there, winning prizes already in 1772 only at 15 years of age.
So he was formed in a school of practical drawing. At 20, he began an apprenticeship with a Rouen architect, and working on some of the most advanced building designs of the period. Already at 20, he was earning extra income giving drawing lessons to younger students.
In 1778, he took a first prize in a competition for a monument to Louie XVI, and a local figure offered him a two year scholarship to go to Paris. No sooner had he arrived in the Capitol in 1779, did he presented himself to arguably the most important architectural office in France, outside the immediate circle of the King, that of Jacques-Germain Soufflot. And here is Soufflot on the left and his major work. Soufflot was, at that point, hard at work in 1779, arriving from Rouen and Paris, on the rural Church of Sainte-Geneviève, the most ambitious building project of the period in France. In fact, construction went on almost 40 years.
He was recommended also to Julien David Leroy, whose books you see here. He taught history at the academy of architecture and he was in fact offered a place at the Royal Academy of Architecture. He is a classic case then of an 18th century figure who ascends the professional ladder to a certain height by talent, rather than uniquely connections.
At Stainte-Geneviève, he works on drawings for the dome, you see one here. I just want to take you to that dome because that dome is one of the great not only achievements, but also controversies of the 18th century. One of the most complex problems in stereometric structure, that is the design of perfectly shaped stones for the construction of complex vault and dome forms. And one based on
Soufflot's desire to culminate the entire history of architecture, by a building that was at once the synthesis of all the past, and the progressive step into a future, made possible by advances in technique. And that we can see in this famous plate that was in the cornerstone in which the church of the Stainte-Geneviève, you have a plan there, it's seen as the combination of the whole history of Christian Church architecture. And not only that, a building that was meant to perfect, as you can see, the transfer of heavy loads through almost gut buttressing, and doing so this dome floating over the air. There is Lequeu working on the projects in a very early state, a building which incorporated some of the most advanced techniques in what were called at the period reinforced masonry forerunners, in fact, reinforced concrete in this iron embedded into the voussoirs of the arches here, the cross section of the pediment of the church of Stainte-Geneviève. Here,
we might say, was born a rubric that might be more meaningful for us as we approach the Lequeu's practice. This, I want to give you instead of revolutionary and visionary, experimental architecture. No less was Soufflot to be perhaps Lequeu's introduction to one of the most important experimental testing grounds of the period, the laying out (here's views of Stainte-Geneviève, I wish there were time to talk about that at great length), the laying out of landscaped gardens in which the English picturesque style with all--this is Ermenonville to the North of Paris, one of the most important French gardens in the English style--the laying out of these gardens in the English picturesque style with all of its inspirations in both the notion of nature as natural being related to the organic emergence of political liberties, but equally the place in which the growing body of sensationalist philosophy, that is the conviction that all knowledge comes from sensorial experience rather than from innate, or even God given ideas, was to be tested. Lequeu's first practical experience came in working for Soufflot on a garden folly for the minister Henri Bertin à Chatou which included a Chinese pavilion (this is not Chatou, I'm cheating this is inaudible), since sensation was combined also with the effects of exotic cultures and the notion of bringing a range of historical time, geographical experiences, into what some were soon calling the landscaped gardens as paysage d'expérience, or landscapes of experience, experience being formative elements of all knowledge.
This had been translated most directly into architectural terms by the architect and theorist, Le Camus de Mézières, whose books you see here on the screen, notably in his, "The Genius of Architecture or the Analogy of this Art with our Sensations" of 1780, one year before Soufflot's death and the beginning of what we might describe as the long journey of Lequeu to reinvent himself after the tragic death of his master and mentor, idol even, by certain references in his papers, only a year after he thought he had made it in the most important building office of the day. Le Camus de Mézières explains the relationship between lines and lighting effects and moves and sensations, implying that out of these one might create a vocabulary for architecture, or for that matter landscape design, in which correlations between affects on the viewer, often ambulant, moods evoke by composition and the program or function of the building could lead to a whole new way of imagining architecture's impact on both individual and societal consciousness. "A well lit building", Camus writes, "well ventilated when all the rest is also perfectly treated, becomes pleasant, even joyful". So this notion of composition giving rise to emotions. "Less open", he continues "more sheltered, it offers a more serious character. If the lighting is even more partial or dappling, the building is mysterious or even sad". These were the terms for an experiment with a whole new approach to composition as a sort of palette or even musical scale of emotive effects of states of experience, ones that encompass not nearly the visual but other terms of architectural experience. But with the death of Soufflot on August 10,
1781 Lequeu lost his protection and disappears from the registers of the Academy. He practically disappears from the historical record. The curators of the exhibition have established for the first time a criminology for this elusive career, although it's still filled with holes. They suggest that it might already have been at this moment of this first setback that Lequeu--this is on the screen evoking some more of the gardens and here the place of Rousseau, relationship between philosophical thought and the garden at the time.
And here's some plates, many we will see in the remaining 20 minutes or so of this presentation, from Lequeu's great project to publish a book of his own called civil architecture, a whole body of architecture. Though it might've already been at this moment that he began setting this out, the dating of these drawings and the dating of this project, Architecture Civile, is notoriously difficult. This suggests then that the lifelong production of images for Lequeu was born of a frustration as much as out of an extension of his work in architecture. At the same time, as it was a continuation of his conviction, that he had a contribution to make in teaching drawing to others, of which he was a master and which might have seemed a more successful career path as a teacher than seeking to establish himself as a provincial architect in the Capitol. He seems to have worked episodically as a draftsman, and perhaps site architect for other Parisian architects. Most notably, Soufflot's nephew, Soufflot le Romain, for whom he worked on Hôtel de Montholon, we've already seen it, but there is Hôtel de Montholon as it appears today and one of the drawings for that project here for the dining room, drawn by Lequeu.
The only surviving building, then, the Hôtel de Montholon, for which Lequeu was involved. Indeed, he was so deeply involved in this building, notably in supervising all the interiors that almost one seventh of the drawings he left to the Bibliothèque Royale, a total of 120 drawings were connected to this project. They show him fully versed in the fashionable neoclassicism of the Louis XVI period. He was hopeful that the Austrian regime was going to have the social mobility to allow him to become a successful enterprising architect in his own regard, built on the aristocratic connections of his employer, to turn some of the fantasy projects he began to generate in this period, such as projects, country and city residences, but also garden follies, into reality. His hopes were soon dashed, seeming at a moment when many architects found themselves in a very precarious situation. By our current health and economic crisis, this seems again rather actual in a way, that I hadn't expected when I first started to compose this lecture in November.
Now even if Lequeu was admitted in 1786 to the Academy of Rouen, he struggled to assert himself as an architect. In May and June, 1788, he is recorded as [quote] "with no current occupation". And he tries even at this point to attain a job in the administration of Royal buildings, appealing to the (inaudible), that's the King's director of buildings. The whole rest of his career for nearly 35 years that span the complex decade of the revolution, Napoleonic empire, and the Bourbon restoration of Louis XVIII, are to be marked by a series of jobs as a draftsman in administrative positions.
For the longest time, in relationship to producing land surveys. So here's a much more practical drawing for the Hôtel de Montholon. Here are some drawings related to his hope to create garden follies for aristocratic clients before 1789. And here a contrast between, we'll return to this drawing on the right, an imagined landscape part of a château civile, part of his own private imaginary projects. On the left, what he spent most of his day doing: drawing land surveys of properties, not only for private individuals, but for the state itself. So working for the longest time in relationship to producing land surveys, and the increasingly avid devotion to the creation of a huge corpus of his own drawings, that relate alternatively to the ambition of creating a manual for architectural drawing, moves from technique to the new conditions of public building defined by the French revolution, and to the construction of a private utopia, of a world defined by architecture, landscape and narrative. Borrowed,
mythological, private, and masonic all in turns, even, as you'll see in a moment, often erotic. The relationship of Lequeu to Freemasonry, clear for Ledoux, has yet, however, to be fully established, but I believe he was certainly a Mason. In other words, while he recorded the real landscape for French territorial administration, here's one of his most spectacular, that had become quite common in the 18th century. He increasingly created a private landscape of designs more and more frequently embedded in complex landscapes. Now, I for a long time thought this drawing,
and did others, was actually a drawing from his period of employment. But the play here, with the playing card down here already gives away that this is a game about representation, and if we zoom in as I was able to do with my iPhone in this area, we find that rather what we might think of as dirty or slightly naughty jokes, or the relationship to the erotic, is certainly appearing in this strange rendition of the foot or foothills of this productive landscape. Now to go back to the G rated part of my presentation, or PG. And what is significant in the opening pages that you see here of Architecture Civile? It's Lequeu's conviction that architecture is to be built on building blocks of light falling over volumes.
It is here of course that it is tempting to have recourse to Boullée, who claimed to have invented (here's a Boullée drawing) to have invented for a tomb, the entrance to a cemetery, an architecture of shadows. In other words, we'll be sad as we go through that dark entrance into a place. The loss of our friends and close family members but towards a landscape of hope and of eternal life. But the lineage with these idea of the architecture of shadows is the shared connection both to a growing body of literature on the garden as the natural field of experience and a direct involvement in planning a picturesque garden. As much as we can reconstitute the ideas of Lequeu's intended publication Civil Architecture, from the plates he left behind, as you can see they are beautiful. They are numbered and they are all on exactly the same size paper so it was a very fully developed project on which he labored for many years, unfortunately often forgetting the date or redating the drawing.
So very difficult put them into his biography. But nonetheless, it is clear that he, in turn, wanted the project, the book, to segue from a primer on shadows on an architecture built on pure forms revealed in light. Oops that sounds a bit like Le Corbusier, sorry. To an increasingly personal, exploration, not of direct natural effects, but of an overlay of reading from the some 234 volumes attested to in his last will and testament filed in 1826, and discovered only more than about a half a century later by the architectural historian (inaudible). So today we know about the library of Lequeu, and it was extensive for this person of a modest background. It was a very impressive library for someone of such modest origins and it contained in addition to a wide range of plate volumes from which an array of historical references were also drawn. Also, a series of literary decks that nourished his dream of combining a natural vocabulary of architecture (inaudible) La Fontaine, a project almost in the spirit of Rousseau, who was an inspiration to many architects, including the famous non trio Boullée, Ledoux, and Lequeu. With a very literary project on the part of Lequeu,
not only in stylistic references, symbols, and sometimes inscriptions on his imagined buildings. Also the clear staging of journeys of discovery and initiation in so many of his projects, and so many of the sequence of plates, if we pay attention to the numbering. It is fascinating to note that Ledoux's book, which we'll come to, Ledoux's famous book that we saw the frontispiece of earlier, finally published in 1804--was not owned by Lequeu. So Lequeu doesn't even own a copy of Ledoux's book, they're supposed to be in our historical construct that I'm trying to demolish close associates. So much for the three Musketeers. Now, as the most recent research on Lequeu has established, here's now one of Lequeu's drawings creating one of these landscapes I showed you the detail of this at the beginning, this incredible, imaginary landscape, the landscape that we're going to voyage through both by his inscriptions, but we can imagine ourselves for hours walking in the paths of this. The
most recent research on Lequeu, as established in the thesis now published of Elisa Boeri, that's actually the daughter of the Milan architect Stefano Boeri, under the title "Jean-Jacques Lequeu, un atlas des mémoires", an atlas of memories. It is possible to match much of Lequeu's work to specific literary texts, everything from Pliny's Natural History, to the Fables, which I've just shown you, of La Fontaine, and many elements of the plates will occur in the backgrounds of his drawings, and many volumes of travel that he owned were thumbed and mined over and over again. At times, he could adopt these private meditations to the demands of his clients.
For instance, between 1786 and 1789, that is to say the three final years of the reign of Louis XVI, Lequeu was involved in both possible and hypothetical projects for gardens, and continually searching in vain for elite clientele for his landscaping services. After 1789, he was able episodically to craft his responses to the shifting demands, and take the whole legacy of investigating, the capacity of architecture, to signify, edify, and modulate emotions, and to build even a social solidarity exporting the experimental architecture of the 1770s and 1780s, for the project of making royal subjects into French citizens. Before the revolution, he was capable of linking his private obsessions and readings, most notably in this book that you see here, the very first published book of architecture, the 15th century Hypnerotomachia Poliphili of Francesco Colonna, first published in 1499, first illustrated on architecture, a complex and even arcane allegory of love, which follows the main character, you see him here coming into a garden trellis, Poliphilo, as he pursues the object of his love, Polia. The voyage takes him through a dreamlike landscape, here's some views of a Renaissance addition to the book in Latin. As I said, the voyage takes them through a dreamlike landscape, a theme that recurs in scores of Lequeu's drawings as well. Until finally, he is reconciled with his love at the fountain of Venus.
One of the many sources, excuse the pun, one of the sources of the recurrent themes of fountains, streams, bodies of water, and grottoes in Lequeu's private universe, such as in this imaginary design. He was not alone in the idea in the 1780s with the proto romantic idea of testing the capacity of architecture, to embody meaning as well as to portray identity. Just before the revolution, Jacques Guillaume Thouret, a lawyer from Rouen, who will later serve in the convention, asked Lequeu to imagine a temple of nature.
This is from Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, and here is this temple of nature, a work we know, actually we don't have an image of that because it's a work we know only from written descriptions of its spherical nature. In the same spirit, for instance, a student at the French Academy in Rome at the period, Antoine-Laurent-Thomas Vaudoyer, responded to the request of someone he met in Rome for a house. Before designing it, Vaudoyer asked the nationality of the visitor to Rome in order to know what register to use for the design he was asked to respond to. Would it be a French house, German house, Austrian house, an Italian house? So that the person might recognize his own personality and identity in the designed house. But the person said he recognized no nationality and he considered himself cosmopolitan, a citizen of the world.
So Vaudoyer gave him thus the world to live in, and described his design unbuildable, and never intended as more than a pictorial and intellectual exercise, as a madrigal on the subject of cosmopolitanism. Now Lequeu initially embraced the revolution. In 1789 he set out to propose a new order of architecture, which you see here, a French order, it could be used to build a temple de memoir de palais nationale, a temple of memory for a national palace.
Memorial and memory were to play a role in his work, in a way that was nearly totally, absent from his supposedly fellow Musketeers, Boulée and Ledoux. And when the great national enterprise of architectural renewal, the competitions of the revolutionary year to 1794 rolled around Lequeu submitted a design, he's contemplating a French order, it's this French order that you see there, a kind of chained person. And here is the project that he submitted to the famous competitions of 1795, 1794 rather, a kind of work projects, administration, way of providing work, in a period when there were no building commissions to speak of, certainly no public ones. But Lequeu submitted a design quite different from nearly all the others submitted in that competition to which scores of architects submitted. Responding to the request for a triumphal arch for the new political order of France, Lequeu instead proposed a city gate under the name of the Porte du Parisis, referring to the Parisis, a Gaulish tribe that had given their name to Paris. One could also call it, he says, the arch of the people, delving into his library into ancient history, combining highly personal iconography in which the recumbent Hercules becomes the Parisis crowned by the coq gaulois, the famous, French rooster, the gaulois rooster.
You see it on the cap and the Phrygian bonnet. This project seemed almost to mock the abstract refusal of symbolism of Ledoux's tax barriers. Let's compare it to Arc de Triomphe, this is by another competitor.
This is Lequeu's entry to the competition. I'm comparing it with LeDoux. Look at Ledoux's total architectural references only: these stacked columns, these pure geometries, but with the Lequeu, the complex pictorial iconography. But the following year in the terror, his patron toy met his death in the terror, and Lequeu, to prove his devotion to the revolution showed this drawing, which was put on display. Years later around 1814, he seems to have added a note on the back, where we find written "dessin fait pour me sauver de la guillotine" a drawing made to save myself from the guillotine, all for the fatherland "tout pour la patrie". In the same year too, he designed his own version of a spheric structure, a favorite of a whole generation, including Boullée and Ledoux, and Vaudoyer.
His project hesitates between a public building, a temple of equality, and a private function as he imagined it [quote] "for the garden of a philosopher". I wish there were time, I see I'm approaching almost an hour I've been with you, to read more precisely more of Lequeu's drawings. But that is the exhibition, which I still hope you'll get to see, invites us to do. The work of collating the lengthy and often obscure inscriptions with the books in Lequeu's library is a key, unfinished task.
There's still lot to be done to try to understand Lequeu. Most of these inscriptions haven't even been transcribed. It was begun in the brilliant book that I mentioned by the young Elisa Boeri in her Atlas of Memoirs, and were joined three of the great experimental fields in which Lequeu was involved in the late 18th century, the theater about which haven't spoken that much, the place of man and nature, and the philosophy of sensationalism. For those of you who read French and once you go on Amazon.fr this is really,
I know my mind, the most intriguing suggestion, the new approach to Lequeu. Most importantly, the philosophy of sensationalism. Sensationalism. The garden was to remain the light motif of all of the rest of the Lequeu's work, even as it during the years of the revolution and the Napoleonic empire increasingly turned to a private endeavor parallel to his daytime job as a draftsman, in the service of the various state agencies, mapping and surveying the land. Ultimately during these years, Lequeu was to produce two interlocking projects: a treatise in the form of a manual for drafting, and the design of a city thought of, you see parts of it here, as a type of memorial garden, or as Boeri would have it, a great Atlas of Memories, populated with flower, all types of fruits, and an attention to a new landscape, in which the olfactory sense, it could been scratch and sniff, was joined with the visual and the auditory to create an environment for fostering a new post-revolutionary citizen, for an architecture that activated all of the senses. Everywhere to be interwoven the ongoing arcane reflections of Lequeu, on what might constitute that world, nourished as much by his reading and growing personal library of architectural sources, and of literary utopian visions, to which he entrusted himself, give architectural form. The conflicting nature even of that book, which it is possible to reconstruct by isolating those drawings created with a consistent format and often numbered ,at once betrays the conflicting desires of Lequeu. It creates something highly systematic and practical that,
might serve as the basis of earning more income through private instruction. And the revolutionary decade indeed was a period of a proliferation of private schools, as the restrictions on who could call himself an architect were thrown wide open, anybody could buy a license to practice architecture without any need to prove qualifications. And on the other hand, Lequeu's increasing cultivation of a private universe, in which he would design an alternative world populated by monuments, grottoes, watercourses, infrastructure and symbolism. Remarkably depopulated, a real contrast. So here's the practical, and here I think perhaps the ultimate beautiful section there, into this imagined underground microcosm of nature and of mythology.
A real contrast from Ledoux, if we were momentarily to break my rule of understanding Lequeu on his own terms, rather than in continual reference to those other paper architects who he probably only scarcely knew. It seems to me, in closing, that the relationship between the tumultuous world and ever evolving French reality that swept over Lequeu as everyone else after 1789, and Lequeu's increasingly devoted creation of a private corpus of architectural images, traced paths of ever greater divergence. That is to say that in the opening years of the revolution, he sets out to adjust, and to a certain extent to embrace, the experiment in a widened social contract, a great political enfranchisement. Even as he adjusts from his aspirations of being a working class provincial, eager to make headway in the world of aristocratic commissions, the world of the gardens in which a range of historical reminiscences and experiments in architecture of experience, was financed primarily by large fortunes. We might read all of Lequeu's work as a continual dialogue between current reality and a private universe, often nourished by a library, which was strong and fables, mythology, and the vision of the world as one of the visible symbols, esoteric knowledge and rights (inaudible) with Ledoux.
Ledoux, really trying to construct all of the elements of a society, think here of the actual events, all of society assembled, but this revolutionary festival, the festival Federation 1791 on the left, and Lequeu's increasingly completely depopulate imagination places for us to move into. Was he a Mason? Some would say that this going in and out of focus of living in the present is the sign of a deranged mind. But it certainly means that if we want to retain the notion of visionary, it needs to be applied to a looking inward, to the projection of inward thoughts rather than to the projection of some future society. In this, it was the contrary of what Ledoux proposed in the ideal working city, in which architectural form would even sideline the church and obviate the prison, there's to be no prison in Ledoux's city. But Lequeu's private universe is quite different.
He clearly wanted us to be here, tonight, even though we can't be together. I think of him lonely in his study making these drawings, another way to spend your evenings, perhaps. He clearly wanted us to be here looking at his work.
He clearly prepared all these drawings to be held by the Royal library. Otherwise, his connection to and fears of an emerging new social and political reality, fragile as it was, would have sunk into oblivion. So I'll end here with his tomb, maybe even a tomb for himself.