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Second Empire Baroque

Victorian Second Empire c. 1840—c. 1890

In 1852 Louis Napoleon, president of the French Republic, proclaimed himself Emperor Napoleon III and immediately strove to surpass the grandeur of Napoleon Bonaparte’s empire by making Paris ‘Ia plus belle yule du monde’. Baron Haussmann, prefect of the Seine département, did much to materialise the Emperor’s desires by demolishing old, congested areas of the city and creating monumental boulevardes lined by elegant townhouses and fine public buildings. The luxury and opulence in which Parisians delighted during the Second Empire was epitomised by the sumptuous Opera House (186 1—74) designed by Charles Garnier, one of the brightest stars of L’Ecole des Beaux-Arts. But the building of the period that was most influential outside France was the New Louvre (1852—57), in which the French Renaissance style was revamped and unerringly attuned to the aims and aspirations of the emperor’s regime.
Some of the more important features of the Second Empire style are pavilion planning, high mansard roofs punctuated by square domes and truncated pyramids, the lush enrichment of wall surfaces, coupled columns, swags, and segmental pediments. Ornament is often profuse, but it is always controlled, clear and crisp.
The influence of the style was felt in Britain and in many parts of northern and central Europe. Second Empire was especially appropriate and popular for large hotels. The style crossed the Atlantic to America, where it was used for public buildings and, in both masonry and timber, for domestic architecture. An important role in the introduction of contemporary French architectural thought to America was played by Richard Morris Hunt, who was the first American to study at L’Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris and who subsequently worked on the New Louvre before returning to his homeland to start what was to become a large and successful practice.
The Victorian Second Empire style appeared in Australia from the mid-i 86os to the end of the century. Buildings such as Sydney Town Hall , the Princess Theatre in Melbourne, and the Shamrock Hotel in Bendigo still speak to us of late nineteenth-century prosperity and love of rich display. Although the style was used quite frequently for public and commercial buildings, it found little favour for domestic architecture.

Sydney Town Hall, George Street, Sydney, NSW. J. H. Wilson, Albert Bond and others, architects, 1866—89. Lavishly ornamented composition with focal tower and fanciful roofs.

  Quoted from:
"A Pictorial Guide to Identifying Austrlian Architecture; Styles and Terms from 1788 to the Present"
Angus & Robertson Sydney 1995 ISBN 0207 18562 X
Copyright © 1989 by Richard Apperly, Robert Irving and Peter Reynolds.
  Royal Exhibition Building, Melbourne, completed 1880.
  South Melbourne Town Hall, South Melbourne, Victoria completed 1880.
  Hotel Windsor, Melbourne, Victoria completed 1883.
  Princess Theatre. Melbourne, Victoria completed 1866.
  Malvern Town Hall. Malvern, Victoria. Completed 1890
  Former Rechabite Hall. Prahran, Victoria. Completed 1888.
  Queensland Parliament. Brisbane. Completed 1868.
  East Melbourne Synagogue. East Melbourne, Victoria. Completed 1877
Melbourne GPO. Completed 1887
  Bendigo Post Office. Bendigo, Victoria. Completed 1892
  Bendigo Court House. Bendigo, Victoria. Completed 1892
  Shamrock Hotel. Bendigo, Victoria. Completed 1897
  Former Records Office. Queen Street, Melbourne. Completed 1900.
  Town Hall Administration Buildings. Swanston Street, Melbourne. Completed 1908.