Revolutionary Architecture


(also French Revolutionary Architecture).

The term 'Revolutionary Architecture' was coined for the mannerist architecture of the late C18, chiefly the designs of architects under influence of the Royal Academy in Paris, France.

The following design principles or 'revolutionary pattern' can be distinguished:

1. Repetition, which may be
  a) Reduplication, or the repetition of a motif without any alteration in shape or size.
  b) Juxtaposition, or the undifferentiated array of equivalent elements,
  c) Reverberation, or the presentation of one and the same motif in different sizes.

2. Antithesis, which can be expressed by
  a) Contrasts in texture
  b) Opposition of different sizes, different shapes, or both.
  c) Tension between distanced elements.
  d) Compensation between elements of different weight.
  e) Interpenetration, which under the revolutionary (individualistic) system means that one feature seems to intrude into another, or even to tear it apart.
  f) Reverberation. Obviously the pattern of reverberation has an element of antithesis.

3. Multiple response, which uses patterns of repetition, or antithesis, or both together.

Other aspects which distinguish the architecture are ideas such as 'architecture parlante' or an architecture which speaks, hence a dependence on decorative devices which 'speak' to the purpose and use of the building, 'architecture des ombres' or an architecture of the shadows and 'lumiere mysteriuse' or the mysterious light of seemingly subterranean spaces. It was particularly suited to monumental civic architecture, Masonic architecture and commemorative architecture.

Boullée is exemplary as an architect who can be termed 'Revolutionary' and as teacher at the French Royal Academy is thus highly influential.

In South Africa the works of Louis Michel THIBAULT, particularly his unexecuted designs, can be seen as examples of the style.

Some of the designs of Gordon Esselmont LEITH could be termed 'Revolutionary Revivalism'.

(See Kaufmann, E. 1966. Architecture in the Age of Reason : Baroque and post-Baroque in England, Italy and France. Connecticut: Archon Books).

Buildings on this website in Revolutionary Architecture style