Books have a place of honor in Henri Labrouste (1801–1875) et Son Temps at the Cité de l’Architecture et du Patrimoine. In collaboration with New York’s MOMA, the show honors the French architectural hero who revolutionized library design in the mid-19th century. Two of his projects, the Bibliothèque Sainte Geneviève in the Place du Panthéon and the reading room and stacks of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France—the French national library on the rue de Richelieu—are on most connoisseurs’ lists of great buildings. Labrouste’s libraries are cathedrals for books, with soaring glass roofs supported by cast-iron Ionic columns and barrel-vaulted naves that scholars say were previously seen only in Pompeiian wall paintings. Many American architects visiting Paris head right for the rue de Richelieu to swoon over the sumptuous reading room and the extraordinary stacks: five floors of cast-iron “catwalk” gratings that allow natural light from the glass roof to filter down.
In Paris, 1 pl du Trocadéro, 16th, Oct 11–Jan 7; at New York’s MOMA Mar 10–Jun 24, 2013. www.citechaillot.fr
Originally published in the October 2012 issue of France Today