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Hector Guimard - Architect

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Hector Guimard was a French architect, decorator and furniture designer who worked within the Art Nouveau style. Born in Lyon in 1867, Guimard studied and later taught at the School of Decorative Arts and at the School of Fine Arts in Paris. Although much of his work is really more engineering than architecture, he liked to think of himself as an architecte d'art.

One of the buildings he built in Paris is an apartment building called Castel Béranger (built 1894-1898). This was one of the first Art Nouveau buildings to be built outside Belgium (where the style began). The gates are a good example of the curves and patterns of Art Nouveau. The interior was also designed just as thoroughly, with each of the 36 apartments unique in its design. This shows an interaction between the planning of the building and also the use of art as the decoration on the building.

His best known work can be seen all over central Paris. For instance, he designed the distinctive green entrance structures for the Paris Métro1. The entrances are constructed out of cast iron and glass and are based on plant-like forms. Although Guimard was going against the classical design of the day when he constructed this project, he was quite successful and influential, spawning a variety of structures based on his 'sinuous green cast-iron tentacles'.

Guimard's early works were unassuming and quite conventional, but after looking at some of the other styles circulating in the late 1800s, he started creating much more interesting designs. He was in part influenced by the ideas of Viollet-Le-Duc and by the designs of Victor Horta.

Guimard's designs were further influenced by a visit to Victor Horta's Hotel Tassel in 1895. After this he radically re-evaluated his design approach and his new projects signalled the emergence of a 'Style Guimard'. The fluid, curved lines which were the main characterising feature of Guimard's design then became synonymous with the Art Nouveau movement.

Guimard died in New York in 1942.

1Underground urban rail network.

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