A Civic Utopia: Ratio

Ratio shows how buildings reflect the Enlightenment’s confidence in reason, measure and knowledge, both symbolically (as an imaginary temple to art, knowledge, and reason rises amidst the disorder of the medieval town), ideologically (in the consolidation of artistic and scientific institutes into a single palace of learning) and instrumentally (through such vehicles as the mint or bourse which brought system into the regulation of exchange.)

Louis-Gustave Taraval, Temple to the Muses, study,, c. 1770, DM 1100 IN SET – Drawing Matter

Louis-Gustave Taraval (1738–1794), Study for a Temple to the Muses, with Three Alternative Peristyles, c. 1770. Pen and black ink with watercolour and grey wash, 355 × 505 mm. Drawing Matter Collections


Jacques-Denis Antoine, Projet d'un Hotel de la Monnaie, c. 1765, DM 2649 IN SET – Drawing Matter

Jacques-Denis Antoine (1733–1801), Projet d'un Hotel de la Monnaie, Place Louis XV, Paris, c. 1765. Pen, black and red ink and wash on paper, 970 × 610 mm. Drawing Matter Collection

In 1765, the State commissioned Jacques-Denis Antoine, a practically unknown architect who was only twenty-two years old, to design the most important French public building of its time, the Paris Hôtel des Monnaies (the Paris Mint). This plan for an early site shows the way Antoine subtly balanced imperatives of security and efficiency of a factory with the lavishness of a royal administrative building. It embodies the rationality espoused by Enlightenment architects and patrons. The final highly restrained project, constructed above an embankment on the Seine, became a worldwide model of the new approach to public architecture, and was of enormous importance to William Chambers in his designs for Somerset House. – BB

Vaudoyer, Plan for Institut de france, 1804 DM 1783 IN SET – Drawing Matter

Antoine-Laurent-Thomas Vaudoyer (1756-1846), Palais des Beaux Arts: Sixième Projet pour le placement de l’Institut, c. 1805. Black ink and coloured washes on paper, 543 × 421 mm. Drawing Matter Collections

The academies of art, architecture, music, and science were founded in the mid seventeenth century, and consolidated into the Institut de France in 1795. In 1805 Napoleon commissioned Vaudoyer to establish a suite of assembly and meeting rooms, with a library, in the chapel of the former College des Quatre-Nations. This version is one of many proposed as the project evolved. It is striking in its allocation of generous and prominent public galleries, concert chambers, and circulation; in its careful calculation of capacity; and in its highly reasoned, almost scientific approach to delineating a plan and designating its interactions and uses. Based on the circle, signifying the unity of knowledge, the plan envisages a public palace in which advances in science and aesthetics become open to general view. – NO