Alphonse-Alexandre Defrasse
1900 Universal Exhibition, project

Project for the 1900 Universal Exhibition, main façade of the central palace, on the Champ-de-Mars
Alphonse-Alexandre Defrasse (1860-1939)
Project for the 1900 Universal Exhibition, main façade of the central palace, on the Champ-de-Mars
1894
Graphite and watercolour
H. 24.5; W. 96.5 cm
© RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d'Orsay) / Jean-Gilles Berizzi


Project for the 1900 Universal Exhibition, overall view of the Exhibition

Projet pour l'Exposition universelle de 1900, façade principale du palais central, sur le Champ-de-Mars [Project for the 1900 Universal Exhibition, main façade of the central palace, on the Champ-de-Mars]


From 1894 the French government organised competitions for the 1900 Universal Exhibition. This period was to allow them plenty of time to select projects calmly, unlike the process at previous Exhibitions. The traditional area for the Exhibition, the Champ-de-Mars, the Esplanade des Invalides and the Chaillot Hill, was to be extended in 1900 to include the far end of the Champs-Elysées and the banks of the Seine from the Champ-de-Mars to the Invalides.

Defrasse situated the entrance to the exhibition on the Champs-Elysées, in the extended area of the Invalides and the monumental bridge specified in the scheme. On the Esplanade des Invalides the pavilions of the colonies and protectorates were set out in tiers. On the Champ-de-Mars, Defrasse retained the Gallery of Machines but demolished most of the other buildings from the 1889 Exhibition, including the Eiffel Tower. In its place, he proposed this sumptuous Gallery of Nations, crowned with a central dome, finished with two glass exedras. The building was to be used for events organised during the exhibition.

Aware of the problems of linking the different sites and the banks of the Seine, the architect included a port opposite the Gallery. It would be reached via several wide flights of steps. Defrasse decorated the Parisian landscape with Venetian-style gondolas and small boats. In the end, the competition was won by Charles Girault and this beautiful project never saw the light of day.




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