Hamilton Halton Construction Association   Ontario Architecture  
resources
home
Contact Building Terms Building Styles Building Terms

Building Styles

Beaux Arts (1885 - 1945)

-- Beaux Arts Architecture

--- Perth------ Toronto ---- Brantford --- Dundas

--------- Sault St. Marie-------- Thunder Bay----- Brantford ---- Kitchener --- Hamilton

Beaux Arts

The Beaux Arts style developed in the last decades of the 19th century. The name is taken from the École des Beaux Arts in Paris, and the style is derived from all of the Classical elements that had been taught in the Beaux Arts since the 17th century. The adoption of the Beaux Arts style horrified all those who were interested in developing the North American designs initiated by Frank Lloyd Wright, Henry Hobson Richardson, and Louis Sullivan. Promoters of the Beaux Arts style sought to express the Classical principles on a grand and

imposing scale. Not surprisingly, many of the Beaux Arts buildings were banks, post offices, and railway stations. Although Classical Revival and Neo-Classical use the same vocabulary of pediments, columns and architraves, their designs are much more conservative and traditional. The Ontario Beaux Arts style is eclectic, mixing elements of Classical, Renaissance, and Baroque. Often the designs have more than one temple-like façade, and a cut-off corner is the entrance. Pedimented porticos can be mixed in with balustrades and Mansard roofs; many capital styles can be found on the same building.

Click Hotpoints for descriptions of terms in both text and images.

Paris

Many buildings from this era suffer from an excess of ornament, but the more beautiful buildings done in this style are truly magnificent. The Opera House in Paris by Garnier is a good example. It is a huge building with an extravagant and avant guard floor plan. Each wing of the building is calculated to give maximum visual impact and to create a sense of occasion both inside and out.

This is the kind of architecture that inspired the Beaux Arts style in Canada.

Second Empire - Paris Opera House

Paris Opera House

 

 

Beaux Arts Commercial Architecture

The Beaux Arts style was meant to indicate that the patron or owner of the building was both wealthy and educated. The strong classical roots, indicating empire and stability of government was brought into a whole new sphere of elegant opulence by the

generous use of oversized classical motifs intermingled in ways that bore no resemblance to the Greek or Roman origins. This was classical excess put together by architects with academic training in the European capitals.

Perth

A square building with the entrance on a cutoff corner and a multiplicity of Classical detailing is an obvious Beaux Arts building. This bank in Perth, built in 1903 by Darling and Pearson, is typical of this pattern of Beaux Arts banks. On the street façades are temple fronts with pediments, architraves, dentils, and engaged pilasters.

Unlike the Classical Revival style, the Beaux Arts style makes no pretensions to accuracy of detailing. Instead, it is an eclectic mixture of Classical and Renaissance details. Along with the temple front are half-round windows with keystones, and above the pediments are corner buttresses. The windows on the upper floor have pediments, and within the tympanum of the large pediments are roundels. The building is created in a mixture of red and yellow brick with rough cut stone on the base for rustication.

Beaux Arts Bank

Perth Ontario

Toronto

This is a less colourful, but much better known, building than the Perth example above. Like it, the entrance is on a cutoff corner and there are two temple fronts facing the street. There is much more ornament and decorative flourishing such as the volutes over the second storey window, the extravagant doorway, and the carved architrave. The pilasters supporting the pediments have ornate capitals as well as crests and garlands.

This Bank of Montreal building was built in 1885 by Darling and Curry. It is now the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Beaux Arts Bank Balustrade Pediment Crest Capital Architrave Doorway Cornice Pediment

Toronto Ontario

Toronto

The Canada Life Assurance Company was one of the first Beaux Arts buildings on University Avenue. Finished in 1931 it was a precursor to the Graet Depression, so did not have much company on the street for a few years.

There are huge scroll consoles with triglyphs and guttae on either side of the main door. The Florentine pediment has an oversized keystone.

The Doric style columns start on the second floor. The facade is achromatic and elegant.

Beaux Arts Insurance Company

Toronto Ontario

Toronto

The side door has a cast iron lintel with a central acroterion. The walls are banded ashlar. The keystone is oversized and ornate.

Beaux Arts Bank

Toronto Ontario

Toronto

Next door is another Beaux Arts building that has the classical bucrane as a decoration on the architrave.

The capitals are a mixture of palm leaves (on the top) and acanthus on the bottom. Typical of the beaux Arts style is the mixing of various unrelated classical motifs on the same facade.

Beaux Arts Bank Balustrade Pediment Crest Capital Architrave Doorway Cornice Pediment

Toronto Ontario

Union Station Toronto

Tuscan Order columns line the front of the Union Staion in Toronto. the station is fashioned after the Baths of Caracalla in Rome.

Beaux Arts Bank Balustrade Pediment Crest Capital Architrave Doorway Cornice Pediment

Toronto Ontario

Toronto

One door in Union station has a huge coffered barrel vault with a cartouched keystone. The windows above the door and the mouldings around the galss doors are all polished brass.

Beaux Arts Bank Balustrade Pediment Crest Capital Architrave Doorway Cornice Pediment

Toronto Ontario

Ottawa

There is a fabulous Beaux Arts building downtown Ottawa that was meant for the central train station. It functioned in that capacity for many years, then in the 1970s some rediculous beaurocrat decided that there was no more need for trains downtown. The Ottawa train station is now far outside the downtown core. Silly really.

Beaux Arts Bank

Ottawa Ontario

Brantford

Here is another corner bank in Brantford that is of the oversized Classical mixture style but without the side temple-fronts. Here we have giant order, fluted, Ionic pilasters along the sides with giant order engaged columns on the corner front. Above these are a continuous architrave and frieze with a large cornice and dentil blocks.

On the attic level is a series of windows with alternating triangular and Florentine pediments in the Renaissance style. The parapet on the corner door has a small ziggurat pattern. This mixture of Renaissance and Classical elements is standard for Beaux Arts style buildings.

Beaux Arts Bank

Brantford Ontario

Brantford

Here is a somewhat different adaptation of Beaux Arts Classicism on a public building; this time it is the Brantford Public Library.

Atop the impressive flight of stairs is a temple-front with four Ionic columns, an entablature announcing the purpose of the building, a pediment with dentiled cornices, a brick tympanum, and an anthemion - a Greek palmette ornament used at the peak of pediments. This temple-front lies in front of a Renaissance styled façade with a heavy cornice and pedimented windows. The center of the plan has a large dome with clerestory lighting. Altogether an impressive place for books.

Beaux Arts Library

Brantford Ontario

Carnegie Gallery - Dundas

The corner building with the doorway perpendicular to the corner is the signature footprint of the beaux Arts style. here the doorway is flanked by two Doric columns. The architrave, directly above the columns, has been update from Carnegie Library, the original use of the building, to Carnegie Gallery, the current use.

An army of dedicated volunteers and fund raisers keeps this building in good shape. Good work guys.

Beaux Arts Bank

Dundas Ontario

Sault Ste. Marie

Sault Ste. Marie's Courthouse is another example of a civic building that is created in the Beaux Arts Classicism style. Instead of stone block the material is brick with stone detailing. Again we see an eclectic mixture of Classical and Renaissance details. From the Classical are four engaged Ionic columns under a pediment . The columns are only half the height of the façade and are part of a frontispiece . Like the Renaissance palazzi, the first floor is rusticated and the windows create a regularized pattern.

Beaux Arts Classicism in Sault Ste. Marie

Sault Ste. Marie Ontario

Thunder Bay

This bank building designed in 1913 is constructed of local lime stone. In contrast to the extravagant Beaux Arts buildings above, this represents a movement towards "Modern Classicism". Instead of the frantic mixture of Classical and Renaissance detailing, the elements have been reduced to bare essentials.

An exaggerated Renaissance style cornice separates the attic floor from the monumental arcaded façades of the first floor. The windows are divided by unadorned paired pilasters. The half-round windows have simple keystones.

Spandrel panels between the upper and lower halves of the windows show restrained detailing that suggests Art Deco influence. This is repeated on the front door where the broken pediment and keystoned crest containing the date have a decidedly stylized look. All the Classical elements are here but they are used in a more subdued and understatedly elegant manner.

 

Beaux Arts Bank Cornice Spandrel Pilaster Parapet Architrave

Thunder Bay Ontario

Front Door Detail

Thunder Bay

If Gothic was the vocabulary for educational institutes, Classical was the vocabulary for banks. This CIBC in Thunder Bay has four massive Doric columns with large abacuses and prominent fluting. There are an unusually high frieze with windows, a large cornice, and an attic floor with stylized triglyphs and guttae. The inspiration shows the relatively unadorned surfaces of Greek architecture as opposed to the more ornate Roman.

The pedimented doorway between the central two columns has discrete engaged pilasters and a very simple architrave. The Classical elements are monumental and imposing giving the impression of solidity and mass that is most appropriate in a bank.

Beaux Arts Bank

Thunder Bay Ontario

Thunder Bay

At first glance this looks like a Neo-Gothic school because of the street level which is composed of a four-centered arch opening, spandrels and buttresses. But this base supports a monumental Classical Composite order frontispiece with an exaggerated cornice and elliptical lunette. The cornice is ornamented with egg-and-dart molding.

The side piers have Baroque brackets and above the cornice band is a pediment design completely split into two parts. The building has permanence and presence, but the detailing is wonderfully wild.

Beaux Arts School

Thunder Bay Ontario

Brantford

Here is a somewhat different adaptation of Beaux Arts Classicism on a public building; this time it is the Brantford Public Library.

Atop the impressive flight of stairs is a temple-front with four Ionic columns, an entablature announcing the purpose of the building, a pediment with dentiled cornices, a brick tympanum, and an anthemion - a Greek palmette ornament used at the peak of pediments. This temple-front lies in front of a Renaissance styled façade with a heavy cornice and pedimented windows. The center of the plan has a large dome with clerestory lighting. Altogether an impressive place for books.

Beaux Arts Library

Brantford Ontario

Hamilton

At first this bank in Hamilton looks almost as if it could be a Classical Revival. the temple front is convincing until you see that there are four columns and two pillars making up the front. All have Corinthian capitals, but the columns are fluted while the pillars are not.

 

Beaux Arts Library

Hamilton Ontario

BLDG10043

Beaux Arts Extra Reading and Films

Books

Blumenson, John. Ontario Architecture A Guide to Styles and Terms. 1978

MacRae, Marion, and Anthony Adamson. The Ancestral Roof: Domestic Architecture of Upper Canada. Toronto: Clarke, Irwin, 1963.

For information on Beaux Arts architecture in specific areas within Ontario there are some very good books listed under the About page.

Films

Becoming Jane - Anne Hathaway

 

 

 

Cornice Triglyph Guttae Doric Column Echinus Abacus Architrave Pediment Architrave Echinus Cornice Balustraded Parapet Pediment Architrave Lunette Keystone Rondel Pilaster Rustication Ionic Columns Pediment Frontispiece Rustication Architrave Stairs Broken Pediment Crest Capital Cornice Broken Pediment Lunette Cornice Composite Columns Tudor Arch Buttress Buttress Entablatue Caryatid Capital Spandrel Pilaster Pediment Dome Renaissance Style Windows Entablature Cornice Quoining Ionic Clerestory Pilasters Architrave pediment cornice