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The Castel Beranger paris – Concert of materials, Waltz of lines

 “The feelings expressed by the Castel Beranger paris do not make people die, and that they do not even give nightmares: the only thing you have to do is following their rhyme.”

             –Hector Guimard, excerpt from a lecture on the Castel Beranger, in Le Moniteur des arts, 7 July 1899

At 14 rue Jean de la Fontaine, the 16th arrondissement of Paris, standing a elegant a building, which is unlike the surrounding Haussmann buildings. The building’s red tiles and white stone are adorned with green and blue ironwork, and its vine-like curves extend to the smallest detail, attracting passers-by who stop to admire it. This residential building has a romantic name: Castel Beranger.

In fact it is the first masterpiece of the French Art Nouveau movement, designed and executed by the French artist Hector Beranger (1867-1942) between 1895 and 1898. The name “Beranger” comes from the road around it- hameau beranger.

Art nouveau

The Art Nouveau (l’Art nouveau) movement began at the end of the 19th century and involved architecture, furniture, graphics design and many other aspects, mainly centralized in Europe and the United States, and its influence continued until the beginning of the twentieth century. French Art Nouveau artists advocated learning from nature, opposing the same industrial porducts, and favoring ingenious handicrafts. They not only pursue the smooth and beautiful shape, but also carefully decorate every surface; The colors are light and elegant, avoiding heavy stacking.

Hector Guimard

These characteristics were faithfully manifested by the architect Guimard. Born in Lyon in 1867, Guimard entered the École Nationale Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs at the age of fifteen and began studying architecture the following year. The first work of his career was the café-concert, called “Le Grand Neptune”,  which built in 1888 on the Quai d’Auteuil. However, before the Castel Beranger, he was still an unknown architect with little personal style.

Castel Beranger Paris

This was the first big order given to Guimard. In the autumn of 1895, a widow (Elisabeth Fournier), who had been investing in renting, entrusted the project to Guimard. The aim was to build a low-cost residential building. Unlike today, at that time the neighbourhood over there was mainly home to small traders, so the building would offer comfortable and affordable housing to people.

At first, this building followed the neo-gothic style. However, just after thr trip to Brussels, fascinated by Victor Hortas’ graceful curves, Guimard made a bold decision: he abandoned the original design and came up with a blueprint closer to the style of Hotel Tassel. At that time, the construction of the building had already begun, so now we find that the Castel Beranger mixed with a variety of styles, notably the organic combination of neo-gothic and art nouveau, both heterogeneous and harmonious, and people can’t help but praise the artist’s fantasy.

Exterior of the Castel Béranger paris

The Castel Beranger covers an area of 700 m² and consists of three six-storey buildings with 36 flats in various layouts. On the ground floor houses a lodge, a circulation area and Guimard’s studio. From the first to the fifth floor, there are three suites per floor, and the top floor offers a place for servants and artists.

It is a brand new style. Red brick, tiles, beige stone, flamed sandstone, millstone, etc., which are the perfect ensemble of color and materials. Turquoise ironwork as a linear decoration forms hinges, pipes, gutters.

The asymmetrical facades are either neo-Gothic with triangular lintels, classical Roman arches or regular rectangular facades. Somewhere are convex, somewheres are concave, they not only give an impression of visual dynamism but also correspond perfectly to the functions of the rooms, such as the dining room corresponding to the arched window protruding from the front, the external overhang of the bathroom, the shape of the staircase and the staggered arrangement of windows are clear at a glance.

The window of the Castel Beranger paris

Gimard’s design is also cost-conscious: the cut masconry is so expensive that it is only placed on key plinths and porches; millstone is more affordable using such as the rear wall and courtyard facade; As for the tiles that are either red or grey, green or blue, are embellished in the lighter corners or on the facade.

The interiors deroction of the house also maintains a botanical and naturalistic tone, following the Guimard style: the stained glass windows depicting flowing lines, the smooth and rounded banisters of the staircase, and even the mosaic tiles in the corners in geometric curves.

Design drawings of the Castel Beranger windowsVitraux du Castel Beranger | © ETH-Bibliothek Zürich / e-rara.ch

The fantastic result is also due to the work of many skilled craftsmen. Such as Alexandre Bigot, a ceramic decorator responsible for the flamed stoneware; Jean Ringel d’Illzach, a sculptor who designed the decoration of the balcony – the singular mask and the anchor chain in the shape of a seahorse; Joseph Musnier, a French engineer in charge of the decorative panelling in the dining room…

Design of the Castel Beranger fences
Fonte des balcons du Castel Beranger | © ETH-Bibliothek Zürich / e-rara.ch

Aesthetic value

It is no surprise that Guimard won the Concours de façades de la ville de Paris in 1898 with the Castel Beranger. The building was so avant-garde at the time that and incurred a lot of criticism-the layout and decoration are so grotesque and anachronistic. It was even called “the House of the Devils”, or “the Castel Déranger”. But Gimard did not care about these voices and continued to spread the spirit of the Art Nouveau movement, and eventually forming his own style, beloved by the world.

With its diverse façade, combination of heterogeneous stones and abstract decoration, Castel Bélanger played an important role in the study of architectural aesthetics in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

After more than a hundred years, the Castel Bélanger remains the same.

A harmonious painting of the human being and architecture marvels Paris.

Drawings of the exterior design of Castel Beranger parisÉlévation du Castel Beranger | © ETH-Bibliothek Zürich / e-rara.ch


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