1. Home

Discuss in my forum

What is Beaux Arts Architecture?

Beautiful, Fine Arts

By

Union Station in Washington DC

Union Station in Washington DC is lavished with Beaux Arts details

Photo © PNC / Getty Images
Entrance lobby, New York Public Library's Beaux-Arts building by Carrère and Hastings, 1911

Entrance lobby, New York Public Library's Beaux-Arts building by Carrère and Hastings, 1911

Photo © Barry M. Winiker via Getty Images
Exterior of 1903 Beaux Arts Lyceum Theater, West 45th Street, Manhattan, New York, NY, USA

Exterior of 1903 Beaux Arts Lyceum Theater, West 45th Street, New York City

Photo by Barry Winiker via Getty Images

Definition:

In French, the term beaux arts means fine arts or beautiful arts. Based on ideas taught at the legendary École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, the Beaux Arts style flourished between 1885 and 1920.

Beaux Arts architecture   Historical and eclectic design on a monumental scale, as taught at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris in the 19th cent.—Dictionary of Architecture and Construction, Cyril M. Harris, ed., McGraw- Hill, 1975, p. 48

Beaux Arts buildings have many of these features:

  • Massive and grandiose
  • Constructed with stone
  • Balustrades
  • Balconies
  • Columns
  • Cornices
  • Pilasters
  • Triangular pediments
  • Lavish decorations: swags, medallions, flowers, and shields
  • Grand stairway
  • Large arches
  • Symmetrical façade

Famous Beaux Arts Buildings:

About the Beaux Arts Style

The Beaux Arts style originated in the École des Beaux Arts in Paris. Many American architects studied at this legendary architectural school, where they learned about the aesthetic principles of classical design and brought them to the United States.

Also known as Beaux Arts Classicism, Academic Classicism, or Classical Revival, Beaux Arts is a late and eclectic form of Neoclassicism. It combines classical architecture from ancient Greece and Rome with Renaissance ideas. Beaux Arts is characterized by order, symmetry, formal design, grandiosity, and elaborate ornamentation. In the United States, the Beaux Arts style led to planned neighborhoods with large, showy houses, wide boulevards, and vast parks. Due to the size and grandiosity of the buildings, the Beaux Arts style is most commonly used for public buildings like museums, railway stations, libraries, banks, courthouses, and government buildings.

The popularity of the Beaux Arts style waned in the 1920's, and within 25 years the buildings were considered ostentatious. Later in the 20th century, postmodernists rediscovered an appreciation of the Beaux Arts ideals.

Learn More About Beaux Arts

Pronunciation:

bO-zär'; or bO-zar' in French

Common Misspellings:

Beaux Arts is often misspelled. Common misspellings include:

  • Beau Arts
  • Bow Arts
  • Boarts

Learn More:

  1. About.com
  2. Home
  3. Architecture
  4. Research Tools
  5. Dictionaries
  6. B: Architecture Terms
  7. What is Beaux Arts Architecture?

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.