August Perret (1874-1954)

French Architect and Building Contractor, Perret was a precursor of Modern Architecture. The reason for his fame can be found in his pioneering application of reinforced concrete and in the ability to foresee new possibilities in architectural figurative expression.

August Perret (1874,1954), old picture.
August Perret (1874,1954), old picture.

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About his life

Auguste Perret was born in Ixelles, Belgium in 1874. He was a prosperous builder’s son, and together with his brothers Gustave and Claude he inherited his father’s building company. Here they began experimenting with reinforced concrete and for their first project, they created the first multistory concrete building by utilizing reinforced concrete. They quickly established themselves as specialists in concrete design. Perret entered the Ecole des Beaux Arts in 1891, but never officially graduated because it would have negated his possibility to work as a contractor.

View of Claude, Gustave and Auguste Perret (from left to right) in front of the Cistercian barn in Villeron Photo Pierre Dalloz. March 1951

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What are his major works?

Together with his brothers Gustave and Claude, Perret built (1903) at 25 rue Franklin in Paris, probably the first condominium designed for reinforced concrete construction. His garage on rue de Pontier (1905) shows how light and open an interior can be when the use of reinforced concrete minimizes the need for structural supports. Through the open frame, the garage demonstrates Perret’s concern for structural integrity.

Apartment at rue Franklin, Perret, 1903,  Paris, France.
Apartment at rue Franklin, Perret, 1903,  Paris, France.

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The visible structure was also a notable characteristic of the interior of his Parisian Théâtre des Champs Elysees (1913). He used thin vaulted roofs for his warehouses in Casablanca (1915) and elegant concrete arches for a garment factory in Paris (1919). The publicity caused by Perret’s creation of the Church of Notre Dame at Le Raincy (1922–23), near Paris, probably fully confirmed the innovative and progressive nature of his ideas and the enormous structural potential of reinforced concrete.

Notre-Dame du Raincy, 1922–23, Le Raincy, France.

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About his style

Perret blended modern architecture with Gothic forms. In contrast to modern theorists, Perret gave attention to detail and texture. He connected natural forms, classical symmetry and order, and the structural system of concrete. Although Perret viewed concrete as a superior form of construction to masonry, he viewed each element separately. He did not use concrete to form a structural whole in the way suggested by Le Corbusier and Walter Gropius.

Champs-Élysées Theater, Perret, 1913, Paris, France

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Other Buildings

  • Concert hall of the Ecole Normale de Musique de Paris, 1929
  • Hotel Saint-Georges, Beirut, Lebanon 1932
  • Extensions of the Ecole nationale superieure des Beaux-Arts, Paris, 1945
  • City HallSt. Joseph’s Church, and reconstruction of the French city of Le Havre after more than 80,000 inhabitants were left homeless following the Second World War, 1949–1956
  • Gare d’Amiens, 1955
  • Villa Aghion, in Alexandria (partial attempted destruction, 28 August 2009. Destroyed by January 21, 2016)
  • Tour Perret, Grenoble
Gare d'Amiens (formerly Gare du Nord),Perret, 1955, Amiens, France.
Gare d’Amiens (formerly Gare du Nord),Perret, 1955, Amiens, France.

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