Second Empire Architecture, What is Second Empire Architecture

Second Empire Architecture speaks to what is Second Empire architecture and to define Second Empire architecture.

This Architecture originated in France years 1852 to 1870 when Napoleon III decided to undertake a major redevelopment of Paris by changing it into a city of grand, tree lined boulevards and impressive monumental buildings.

The most recognizable of these monumental buildings was the New Louvre which was constructed 1852 to 1857 whose style was a synthesis of French Renaissance which was derided from the Italian Renaissance style. This explains why there is such similarity of features between the French and Italianate conceptual styles. It was perfect example of nineteenth century bourgeois taste. This explains why the Second Empire style became in fashion throughout North America.

This type of building is easily recognized by their mansard roofs and a double pitched roof with a steep lower slope. The principal facades of large public buildings are composed of two more recognized features, a prominent centre section and flanking end pavilions. Their roofs and towers are decorated with ornately pedimented dormer windows and fancy iron cresting. The remainder of the building is often embellished with rich architectural details, such as paired superimposed columns and pilasters, ranges of elaborate framed windows and strongly moulded stringcourses.

Yet despite their grandiose appearance these buildings have a noticeable grid like organization which imposes order and logic on the whole. This classical style was much used in the 1870s and 1880s and is typical of the increasingly elaborate and monumental appearance of architecture towards the end of the nineteenth century.

The prestigious if not ostentatious appearance of the Second Empire style limited its use to public buildings, banks, insurance companies, religious institutions and a few commercial properties. The mansard roof provided an additional top storey and a rather grand appearance, so that a simple version of this style became a popular domestic style. For nearly twenty years the Second Empire was the height of fashion in domestic architecture and houses built with this style are found throughout North America.

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