Hero Image
Micro Narrative
What’s in a Name?:
Etienne-Louis Boullée’s Redesign of the Bibliothèque du Roi, 1780–88
Nicholas Andrew Pacula
View Issue Articles

Little is known about the exhibition in 1790 of French architect Etienne-Louis Boullée’s unbuilt redesign of the Bibliothèque du Roi (Library of the King). Only two primary sources speak to the project’s public unveiling and reveal that a lost model likely displayed alongside the drawings reproduced in Figures 1–3 received general praise. The first reference appears shortly after the architect’s death, in an obituary in the February 18, 1799 issue of the Parisian newspaper Le Moniteur Universel. The second source, a lengthier summary of the architect’s oeuvre featured in the 1801 edition of the Mémoires de l’Institut national des sciences et arts, claims, “Boullée designed a new building, in which all the literary treasures, assembled together under one roof, could not offer more to the sciences or the arts… The public saw the model, in relief, exhibited by the author in 1790.” Curiously, both accounts refer to Boullée’s project as an unbuilt design for the Bibliothèque Nationale and, in turn, relate the architect’s unbuilt proposal to an altogether different building program than the one which the drawings were initially intended to address.

Continue reading:

ACSA Members