Notes about the Palais des Machines of 1889 in Paris: space, structure and ornament


  • Oscar Linares de la Torre Escola Tècnica Superior d'Arquitectura de Barcelona Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya



Space, structure, ornament, project


The Palais des Machines of the Paris Universal Exposition of 1889, designed by the architect Charles Louis Ferdinand Dutert (1845-1906) and the engineer Victor Contamin (1840-1893), is undoubtedly an icon of the 19th century architecture: its powerful spatiality, its portentous structure and its straightforward tectonics have rightly received high praise by critics and architects from the second half of the 20th century. However, critical tradition and historiography from the end of the last century have frequently offered a biased interpretation of this work, aimed at underlining certain architectonic values for then presenting them as a direct product of the author’s will. The aim of this article is to explain, altogether and with maximum transparency, how the conjunction between certain circumstantial issues and the will/ability of both authors made possible the construction of one of the most important works of the nineteenth-century architecture. To achieve this, the three most celebrated architectural aspects of the building are analysed: the huge scale of the central space, the particular structural system chosen and the uneven usage of ornament.


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Author Biography

Oscar Linares de la Torre, Escola Tècnica Superior d'Arquitectura de Barcelona Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya

Oscar Linares de la Torre es Arquitecto (2008) con 10 MH en el Proyecto Final de Carrera por la Escuela Técnica Superior de Arquitectura de Barcelona (ETSAB) y actualmente está terminando su tesis doctoral “La estructuración del espacio arquitectónico por la gravedad y la luz” en la misma universidad bajo la dirección del Catedrático de Proyectos Arquitectónicos Carlos Ferrater Lambarri.

Ha dado clases en la ETSA Barcelona (UPC), la ETSA Madrid (UPM), el EsDi (URL) y The Sir John Cass Faculty Of Architecture (London Metropolitan University), entre otras escuelas de arquitectura.

Es miembro del equipo de redacción de la Revista DPA del Departamento de Proyectos Arquitectónicos de la Univeridad Politécnica de Cataluña, y autor de “La luz es el tema” de la revista Diagonal.

Ha desarrollado una intensa actividad profesional en España, Reino Unido, Alemania, Dinamarca, Suiza, Suecia, Hungría, Estados Unidos, México, Colombia, Arabia Saudí y Qatar.

Su actividad investigadora y proyectual ha sido publicada a nivel nacional e internacional.


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Research articles
Received 2017-05-30
Accepted 2018-03-14
Published 2018-04-19