Design: Paris Métropolitain Entrance
Designer: Hector Guimard (1867-1942)
Date: ca. 1900
Style: Art Nouveau
Country of Origin: France
Materials: Cast iron, painted green to look like aged bronze
Background: Built to coincide with Paris’ 1900 International Exposition, the numerous Hector Guimard-designed Métro entrances that dot the city’s landscape are some of the most famous and enduring examples of the early twentieth century’s Art Nouveau style. An offshoot of the Modernist impulses of the time, Art Nouveau was concerned not with practicality or objectivity, but with the creation of an entirely new, unprecedented style that could exploit and celebrate new building materials. Constructed from industrially manufactured cast iron pieces, these Métro entrances employ a new structural language, one that is comprised of elegant curves and sumptuous vegetal motifs—more rooted in fantasy than tradition or reality. Although other, more craft-based movements of the time also used nature as a decorative element, Art Nouveau stood apart in its embrace of modern technology, proving that these seemingly contradictory themes could coexist harmoniously and even beautifully.
Illustration by Libby VanderPloeg.