Essential Architecture-  Paris

Castel Béranger Castel Déranger


Hector Guimard


Number 14 Rue La Fontaine, Paris, France


c. 1890 


Art Nouveau 




Apartment Building
Born in Lyon in 1868, Hector Guimard realized his first important work, the Villa Roszé in 1891, but only in 1898 did his personality blossom, on the occasion of the construction of a group of apartment buildings christened Castel Béranger, which won the competition for the best façade erected in Paris in 1898. He then became the principal representative in France of the 'Modern style,' now known as Art Nouveau.The cluster of buildings known as Castel Béranger [14, rue La Fontaine] is Hector Guimard's most important work, the one that made him vamous. Influenced by his Belgian colleague, Victor Horta, he designed its every detail in the style later known as Art Nouveau. Hector Guimard is best known as the designer of 141 entrances to Parisian metro stations (1900-1904), all made of prefabricated cast-iron elements. Some of them were covered, but only two examples of this canopied design survive in Paris. 
"Never entirely resolved as a total composition, the Castel Béranger is nonetheless an important transitional work in Guimard's career. The stem and branch-like character of both the interior furnishing and the exterior ironwork stand in a curious and brittle contrast to the articulate, architectonic but disjunctive elements that make up the cumbersome mass of the building's exterior. With 36 apartments, each different from the next, the Castel Béranger is a curious compound of rational planning and non-rational intent and expression. Guimard was to exploit its competition as an occasion for promoting le style Guimard. To this end he staged an exhibition of the building and its contents in the Salon du Figaro in 1899, while simultaneously publishing a book of the work under the title, L'Art dans l'habitation moderne. Le Castel Béranger. More acerbic than his flamboyant country houses of the turn of the century and located in the fashionable, fast-growing suburb of Auteuil, the Castel Béranger gave Guimard a prime opportunity with which to demonstrate the synthetic subtleties of his style, in which urban and rustic references could be judiciously mixed together." 

— from Kenneth Frampton and Yukio Futagawa. Modern Architecture 1851-1945. p70. 
Hector Guimard brought back Art Nouveau architecture from Belgium where he visited Victor Horta in 1894. Guimard was building the "Castel Beranger" which was to be one of his master pieces in a medieval style. He had been very upset by what he has seen of the Tassel Hotel and decided to modify all his plans for Castel Beranger, designing every detail (wall paper, door handles, floor tiles, front door). On the 

Guimard is certainly the most well known Art Nouveau architect in Paris, but Art Nouveau would not had either his name nor his success without Samuel Bing. Samuel Bing was an "Galerie d'Art" (Art shop) keeper and he was interested in the new trends in Arts at the end of last century. The name of his gallery was "Art Nouveau". Obviously Art Nouveau objects like this mirror mixing wood and brass ornated with dynamic curves and floral patterns by Edgar Brandt circa 1910 were on sale in his marvelous and modern shop (partly designed by the Belgian artist Henry Van de Velde). 

The jeweler René Lalique made his reputation on designing jewels with mixed material, often half precious gems with shapes of animals (here a peacock : a fetish animal for Art Nouveau) or women. Later, after 1913, Lalique began to produce glass works in an Art Deco style.

Alphonse Mucha is also a symbol of Art Nouveau in Paris. The Czech has spent most of his time in Paris and his placards for the actress Sarah Bernard are probably the most well known of the world.

Other architects can be cited to have marked Art Nouveau in Paris: Sauvage (theater Loïe Füller for the 1900 world fair in Paris), Schollkopf, Jourdain (architect from the grand magasin "La Samaritaine")... and Lavirotte . the latter built in 1902 the most erotic façade of Paris. He has a real skill at integrating sculpture to his buildings. With this building he won the "Paris best facade of the year" challenge so did the Castel Beranger some years before. Salvador Dali did enjoyed it very much.