Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Turgot Map, Place des Victoires

Cambridge, November 13, 2012

The designer of Place Vendôme was Jules Hardouin Mansart, Louis XIV's chief architect.  He had already designed a figural urban space for Paris before, the remarkable Place des Victories, a perfect circular plan with a regular four-story facade all around.  This is a point in the city where a number of streets come together at different angles and the circle has the double task of reconciling the competing geometries and, at the same time, establishing an urban space with its own identity.  Although the buildings surrounding Place des Victoires are residential, the facades have a deliberately monumental character: a tall base of rusticated arches, the two main levels above linked by gigantic Ionic pilasters, all capped by the the characteristic Mansard roof (named after Hardouin's great-uncle François Mansard) of dark slate.  This architecture, as much as the crisp geometry of the circle, carry the difficult role of unifying a space challenged by several streets coming at it from different angles

For a few decades, the center of the Place des Victoires was rather contested.  The Turgot map shows the original monument designed by Martin Desjardins, an alegorical composition celebrating the power of Louis XIV.  At the time of the French revolution (you can guess it, right?) the monument was taken down.  In 1793 the revolutionary government erected a wooden pyramid.  In 1810 Napoleon replaced it with a statue of Louis de Saix, one of his most trusted generals, and in 1828 (towards the end of the brief Borbon Restauration) Charles X placed the equestrian statue of the Roi-Soleil that you can see today.

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