Dessiner pour Bâtir

Louis Le Vau (1612–1670), Château de Meudon, c. 1656–7. Pencil, pen, ink and wash on watermarked laid paper, 267 x 700 mm.

Lemercier, Le Vau, Mansart .... these few great names embody the glory of French architects of the seventeenth century. Their individual celebrity, linked to buildings and to particularly prestigious patrons, hides in reality another story: behind their emblematic figures, it is a professional group that emerges from the old building trades to profoundly transform the practice of the arts and of construction in France. 

Through nearly two hundred exceptional works and documents, Dessiner pour Bâtir explores the social, cultural and artistic implications of the affirmation of the modern architect in France, from the time of Henry IV to that of Louis XIV.

Who calls themselves an architect and how does one become one? The question of status, of social position and of the culture of these architects is essential, in this century that saw the beginnings of academic teaching of architecture and the constitution of veritable careers for practicing architects. 

How is the project of a building conceived and designed? The drawings, from the first sketch to the beautiful presentation sheets, are the privileged medium of expression for the architect and their examination reveals not only the evolution of graphic techniques throughout the century, but also the diversity of artistic personalities of their authors.

Finally, what is the concrete role of the architect on the construction site? The technical and contractual documents, working drawings and models, which are always too numerous and diverse, bear witness to the increasing responsibilities of the architect, from the formal and technical points of view as well as from the juridical and economic.

Benefiting from an exceptional partnership of the Nationalmuseum of Stockholm and loans from numerous institutions and private individuals, this exhibition creates, with small touches, a collective portrait of the architects of the Grand Siècle, professionals and artists at once.