Beauty of concrete’s classical age
Beauty of avant-garde concrete
During this September’s European Heritage Days, the Palais d’Iéna opens wide its doors. Philippe Prost, magician of concrete, presents this monument, one of the most remarkable examples from the classical age of concrete, which today houses the Conseil Economique et Social.
In 1936, the architect August Perret (1874-1954) made use of all the technical and esthetic potential of reinforced concrete, creating a new architectural order able to rival with Antiquity. For Iéna, he designed the luminous colonnade of the Salle Hypostyle, marrying oak and concrete, as well as the famous stand-alone staircase with its railing by Raymond Subies, its double flights lilting upward in the form of a horseshoe. A daring, unapologetic use of raw concrete.
Philippe Prost, architect, professor at the Ecole Nationale Supérieure d’Architecture Paris-Belleville, and member of the 2015 Hunt Prize Jury, receives us in the Hémicycle beneath its double cupola – a concrete shell on the outside, the interior in glass blocks.
The title of his lecture, “Architecture and Citizenship: the Architect in Service of the Citizens”, serves as the leitmotiv he applies to the notion of “places of memory” for citizens. While World War II memorials are abundant, the Great War of 1914-1918 has been less remembered, in France as well as in the United States. Philippe Prost was entrusted with the creation of a memorial in the battlefields of the Somme, upon whose plaques are engraved the names of the 580,000 soldiers of all nationalities who lost their lives there. He imagined an enormous, gravity-defying ellipse in fiber-reinforced concrete, its pure, cantilevered form invisibly suspended by a tension cable.
The International Memorial of Notre-Dame-de-Lorette is a powerful, sobering symbol of eternity.
Congratulations to the Philippe Prost Agency, soon to receive The American Concrete Institute’s ACI Excellence in Concrete Construction Award this October 24th, in recognition of the Anneau de Mémoire (Ring of Remembrance). The head of this project, Lucas Monsaingeon, Hunt Fellow 2016, will soon travel to the United States to begin his fellowship.