Born on March 10, 1967 in Lyon, France, Hector Guimard grew to be one of the most significant figures in French architecture and interior design. During the seventy-seven years of his life Guimard accomplished many great things. Beginning in 1882 he studied for three years at Ecole Des Arts Decoratifs. From 1885 until 1889 Guimard continued his studies at Ecole de Beaux Arts. [i]

After finishing his studies, Guimard traveled to Brussels. In Brussels he worked with Victor Horta during the design process of Hotel Tassel and Hotel Solvay. Both of these architectural works are prime examples of Art Nouveau. Guimard identified himself with Horta’s work system and life style. When Guimard returned to France he became the designer responsible for introducing Art Nouveau to Paris.[ii]

As an architect Guimard went a step further into his designs. He liked to design all aspects of his creations, from exterior detail all the way down to furniture and even door handles. He is responsible for many of his buildings interior designs, including decorative elements such as tiles, windows, and door trim. Guimard was not only a creative genius but also a great businessman. He mass-produced and marketed many of his designs including fireplace mantels, trim, and tiles.[iii]

In Guimard’s designs he mixed together the use of cheap and luxurious materials. His work, characteristic of Art Nouveau, took advantage of modern materials, industrial production, and the use of electricity. Guimard used cast iron and glass, two of the most modern materials at the time, very often in his designs. Guimard is considered the most significant Art Nouveau architect in all of Paris.[iv]

Art Nouveau was about the rejection of Victorian styles and historic imitation in revivals. Art Nouveau designers believed that all the arts should work in harmony to create a total work of art so Art Nouveau had a close relationship with the fine arts. Painting, bas-relief, and sculpture were often incorporated into the interior design and architecture of Art Nouveau buildings. Also characteristically of Art Nouveau was the use of decorative ornamentation based on forms of nature. Flowers, vines, shells, bird feathers, insect wings were used in abstract form for decoration. Curvilinear forms are a very important part of Art Nouveau design. Curves were used in both ornamentation and in structural elements. The relationship of the natural curves in nature led to the design of the S curve and whiplash curve, two signature forms of Art Nouveau. Art Nouveau was a concerted attempt to create and international style based on decoration.[v]

Castel Beranger is Guimard’s first work of Art Nouveau. Guimard designed Castel Beranger for Madame Fournier from 1893 until 1895. Castel Beranger was designed as a multifamily apartment building. For this project Guimard used his choice of modern materials as well as incorporated materials of existing buildings surrounding the site into his design. The first two stories of Castel Beranger were built out of stone. The remainder of the building was built out of pinkish red bricks. Guimard wanted the Castel Beranger to attract tenants, and he knew that it was not enough to make the building nice or unusual, the apartments had to be bright inside. As a result Guimard built the upper stories set back to admit more light into the stories below them. Castel Beranger is regarded as one of Guimard’s most remarkable pieces of Art Nouveau. One does not enter Castel Beranger they slip into it. The entrance is through a long tunnel-like vestibule lined with stubby columns highly decorated in carved ornamentation. The gate at the entry of the tunnel is one of the most well recognized features of Castel Beranger. Made out of cast iron the gate curves and bends in S and whiplash forms, making its statement right at the start. The vestibule’s walls are lined with molded terra-cotta tiles and metal tile retaining bars. The stenciled ceiling uses whiplash curves and pastel colors, signature of Art Nouveau vocabulary. At the end of the tunnel there is a central courtyard. The building’s six stories of apartments rise up on all four sides overlooking the central space. Tenants reached their apartments from the courtyard, and up the stairs located in towers. [vi]

Throughout the interior of Castel Beranger Guimard used cast iron railings and curvilinear forms. Guimard used ceramic tile abundantly inside Castel Beranger, he was a lover of ceramic. It is said that ceramic was to Guimard as gems are to jewelers. Guimard, also a lover of glass, used stain-glassed windows on the ground floor of Castel Beranger. He actually used part of the ground floor as his own personal design studio for quite some time. The stained glass windows inside of his studio were Guimard’s most free flowing personal design of all.[vii]

The staircases in Castel Beranger curve as they rise to the floors above. The cast iron railings use whiplash forms and S curves in their décor.

“Never entirely resolved as a total composition, the Castel Beranger 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 thirty six apartments, each different from the next, the Castel Beranger is a curios compound of rational planning and non rational intent and expression… the Castel Beranger 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.” – Great Buildings.

Along with Castel Beranger Guimard is very well known for his designs of the Paris Metropolitain Entrances. In 1900 Guimard set to work on his designs, making each entrance unique to eachother. He wanted each entrance to coincide with the character of its station. He chose to use cast iron because it bends easily into his signature curvilinear forms. All of the entrances were based on organic forms. Some curves were in snake-like forms, all were of green and brownish hues coinciding with the theme of nature. He used glass with the cast iron in many of the entrance designs, some of them making reference to the form of insect wings. One of his entrances is referred to as the “dragonfly” because of the form created by its glass roof and projecting panes. [viii]

In 1909 Guimard married Adeline Oppeheim an American painter. In 1912 he completed the home he designed for him and his wife calling it Hotel Guimard. Hotel Guimard was built using cut stone and bearing masonry. Hotel Guimard is “compact, stocky, yet so to speak, light on its feet, it gives the impression of being the elegant headquarters of a victorious army.” – Maurice Rheims. Defying rhyme and reason each window and balcony on the exterior of the building are unique in design. In addition to their size and shape they are also randomly placed, asymmetrical but balanced. The entrance to Hotel Guimard is high and spacious. The Interior floor plan of Hotel Guimard is one of his finest examples of functionalism. To save space Guimard put an elevator in instead of a grand staircase. Back in 1912 it was very rare to see an elevator in a home, this demonstrated Guimard’s love for modernism. Each floor of the four-story home had a separate function. On the first floor were the architectural studios, on the second floor were the reception and gathering rooms, the living quarters were on the third floor, and the fourth floor was for Madame Guimard’s studio. [ix]

Works by Guimard (date and location):

• Hotel Rosze 34 Rue Boileau – Paris 1891

• Hotel Jassede 41 Rue Chardon-Lagache – Paris 1893

• Private House 63 Avenue de General de Gaulle – Hauts-de-Seine 1893

• Hotel Delfau 1 Rue Molitor – Paris 1894

• Castel Beranger 14 Rue La Fontaine – Paris 1894 – 1898

• Ecole Du Sacre Coeur 9 Avenue de la Friellere – Paris 1895

• Salle Humbert-de-Romans 60 Rue Saint Didier – Paris 1898

• Maison Coilliot 14 Rue de Fleurs – Lille 1898 – 1900

• Villa la Bluette Rue Pre-de-L’Ile – Calvados 1899

• Villa la Sapiniere Rue Pre-de-L’Ile – Calvados 1899

• Metropolitain – Paris 1900

• Castel Val – Chaponval 1903

• Jessede Apartments 142 Avenue de Versailles – Paris 1903

• Hotel Nozal 52 Rue Ranelagh – Paris 1904

• Castel D’orgeval 2 Avenue de la Nare-Tambour – Essonne 1904

• Hotel Deron-Levent 8 Grande Avenue de la Villa de la Reunion – Paris 1905

• Suburban Villa 16 Rue Jean-Doyen – Eaubonne 1905

• Chatlet Blanc 2 Rue du Lycee – Sceaux 1908

• Hotel Guimard 122 Avenue Mozart – Paris 1909 – 1912

• The Mois Apartments 11 Rue Francois-Millet – Paris 1910

• Housing Complex 17, 19, 21 Rue La Fontaine – Paris 1909 – 1911

• Hotel Mezzara 60 Rue la Fontaine – Paris 1910

• Synagogue 10 Rue Pavee – Paria 1913

• Villa Hemsy 3 Rue de Crillon – Saint-Cloud 1913

• Office Building 10 Rue de Bretagne – Paris 1914

• Hotel 3 Square Jasmin – Paris 1922

• Villa Flore 120 Avenue Mozart – Paris 1924-1926

• Apartment House 18 Rue Henri-Heine – Paris 1925-1928

• Apartment Houses 36-38 Rue Greuze – Paris 1926-1929

Hector Guimard is thought of as the most significant figure of Art Nouveau in Paris. Well, it makes sense that he is; he brought Art Nouveau to Paris. With such an impressive list of buildings designed, it’s evident that Guimard earned his reputation. With whiplash and S curves, free-flowing organic forms, and the use of cast iron and glass, Hector Guimard’s designs are clearly recognizable in character. He created many “signature” characteristics that made his work stand out. Guimard moved to New York City in 1938. On May 20, 1942 he passed away in his New York home. On that note I must say, he lived a fulfilling life.

[i] Rheims, Maurice. Hector Guimard.

[ii] Rheims, Maurice.

[iii] Rheims, Maurice.

[iv] http://www.emediawire.com/printer.php?prid=77040

[v] Pile, John. A History of Interior Design.

[vi] Rheims, Maurice.

[vii] Rheims, Maurice.

[viii] Rheims, Maurice.

[ix] Rheims, Maurice.

 

 

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