This Beaux Arts marvel, looming over the city blocks was born out of a unfortunate event, a bomb thrown at Napoleon the Third, the Emperor of France. He demanded a new opera house, the one he could attend in safety.
The opera house was designed by an unknown architect, Charles Garnier, chosen on the first ever held modern architectural, anonymous competition. It took 15 years to build, but it was worth waiting for.
The building was, for the time a showcase of innovation in spatial organization of a theater as well as the architectural treatment of the archetype. The monumental facade, a reference to Louvre was designed as a screen, a facade in front of the facade, making it a full frontal portico. The sets of smaller, non-structural columns were added to the massive doubled composite colonnade. The ornate architectural attic was extruded during the construction, to surpass the height of the new city blocks of the new, ceremonial avenue.
The entrance area, behind the portico was an outright novelty, offering a treat for the visitors, a stroll through the grand open foyer surrounded by balconies and ascend over the masterful staircase, suggestively leading the spectators exactly where they were meant to go. The inner facade of this imposing lobby had but a single purpose, to be admired by people occupying the space, creating a performance ahead of the performance, a spontaneous show.
The architecture of the building is as clear as possible, the masses reflecting accurately what goes on inside. The circular dome covers the horseshoe auditorium. The double-decked roof is above the fly-tower and the scene, and the utterly classical, indented back of the building accommodates the administration. The exuberant, expressive ornamentation is a cherry on top, a proof of completeness of talent and depth of architectural intuition that gave birth to this building.
Ordered as the largest and most prestigious building of the Second Empire, it was finished to be the pride of the Third Republic, and it remains an architectural jewel of city of Paris up to date.
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