Musée d'Orsay: Marcellin Varcollier Caserne des Célestins

Marcellin Varcollier
Caserne des Célestins

Caserne des Célestins in Paris, bird's eye view
Marcellin Varcollier (1829-1895)
Caserne des Célestins in Paris, bird's eye view
Pen and ink, watercolour on tracing paper
H. 49,4; W. 85 cm
© RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d'Orsay) / Hervé Lewandowski

Varcollier Caserne des Célestins à Paris, vue prise à vol d'oiseau [Caserne des Célestins in Paris, bird's eye view]

A pupil of Victor Baltard, a very influential city architect in Paris (he was appointed director in 1860), Marcellin Varcollier was very young when he joined the city department, and was appointed city architect in 1863. It was in this capacity that he was instructed to draw up a draft design for the reconstruction of the Caserne des Célestins. Occupied by the Republican Guard, this had housed a convent of the same name until the Revolution, and was divided into two in 1866 by the creation of the Boulevard Henri IV.

As well as the design for the new barracks, this perspective offers a splendid view over Paris, from Montmartre to the Bastille. We can see from this that Varcollier planned to reconstruct the barracks on the east side of the former convent. The new building was to be set back from the boulevard to preserve its architectural unity and reduce environmental nuisance. This idea would also enable the city to divide up and sell the plot on the boulevard, which would in part finance the works. But the military authorities opposed this for reasons of sanitation: setting back the barracks in relation to the buildings on the boulevard reduced ventilation and light.
The architect subsequently drew up several other proposals, but all were abandoned. The reconstruction of the barracks would be postponed until 1889 when a competition was launched and won by Jacques Hermant.

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