Henri Labrouste: Structure Brought to Light, the first solo exhibition of Labrouste’s work in the United States, establishes his work as a milestone in the modern evolution of architecture. The exhibition includes over 200 works, from original drawings—many of them watercolors of haunting beauty and precision—to vintage and modern photographs, films, architectural models, and fragments. Labrouste made an invaluable impact on 19th-century architecture through his exploration of new paradigms of space, materials, and luminosity in places of great public assembly. His two magisterial glass-and-iron reading rooms in Paris, the Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève (1838–50) and the Bibliothèque nationale (1859–75), gave form to the idea of the modern library as a temple of knowledge and as a space for contemplation. Labrouste also sought a redefinition of architecture by introducing new materials and new building technologies. His spaces are at once overwhelming in the daring modernity of their exposed metal frameworks, lightweight walls, and brightness, and immersive in their timelessness.
Works by an international array of architects, such as Labrouste’s pupils in France, Spain, the Netherlands, Peru, and the United States, and projects with more distant resonances by architects such as Louis Sullivan, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Richard Rogers, will also be featured.
Organized by Barry Bergdoll, The Philip Johnson Chief Curator of Architecture and Design, The Museum of Modern Art; Corinne Bélier, chief curator, Cité de l’architecture & du patrimoine; and Marc Le Cœur, art historian, Bibliothèque nationale de France, département des Estampes et de la photographie.
Henri Labrouste: Structure Brought to Light is presented by MoMA, the Cité de l’architecture & du patrimoine, and the Bibliothèque nationale de France, with the participation of the Académie d’architecture and the Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève.
The exhibition is supported by The International Council of The Museum of Modern Art, Cetie Nippert Ames and Anthony Ames, and the French Heritage Society.
Image: Henri Labrouste. Bibliothèque nationale, Paris. 1854–75. View of the reading room. © Georges Fessy