Drawing Out Meaning

The long 18th century: Étienne-Louis Boullée

Project for a metropolitan cathedral in the form of a Greek cross with a domed centre

Project for a metropolitan cathedral, perspective view, 1782
Designer: Étienne-Louis Boullée
© RIBA Library Drawings and Archives Collections


A prime example of one-point perspective, Étienne-Louis Boullée's scheme for a metropolitan cathedral in Paris exploits shadow and light to lend a sense of drama to the space. The long barrel vaults and rich patterns surrounding the diminutive scale figures make the cathedral seem incomprehensibly massive.

Boullée, a French Neoclassical architect of the late 18th century, produced this drawing seven years before the French Revolution began. As an architect and reformer interested in the life of the common people, Boullée designed fantasy public works to capture the revolutionary spirit and give monumental spaces to the people. His drawings are powerful both for their refined craft and scope of vision.


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