The centenary of the French Revolution in 1889 gave rise to many commemorative projects. The site of the Tuileries Palace – which burned in 1871 and was demolished in 1883 – was put forward in 1886 by the city of Paris.
The site was strategic both geographically, because the vista designed by Le Nôtre now linked the Louvre to the Arc de Triomphe, and symbolically, with the former royal residence being turned into a "temple of the arts". It inspired architectural utopias, the most spectacular of which was the drawing by Louis-Ernest Lheureux.
A pupil of Labrouste, who was a close friend of Viollet-le-Duc's, the architect applied the rationalist principles of coherency between the building's shape and its functions. He took advantage of the originality of the theme to give free rein to his imagination. But the drawing is not devoid of rationalism, which could be qualified as opportunist, because Lheureux used monuments typical of ancient civilisations to express the idea of a universal monument.
The pyramid rising within the temple structure conjures up an Indian stupa as much as an Aztec pyramid. Sculpted foundations and rows of small columns at different levels structure the facades. Triumphal arches materialise the passageways, the first of which is the Carrousel arch integrated into the project as a central gateway. These arches mark the four points of the compass and open on to Italian-style galleries whose wide staircases and sculpted groups recall the art of Versailles.
Lastly, a circular temple, an allusion to Bramante's Tempietto, crowns the pyramid, neatly fitting a circle into a square.
So rationalism here consists in using structural forms from various civilisations that have since become universal, such as the circle, the semicircle, the triangle of the pyramid and the Ts of the antique architectural orders.