French Renaissance: Architecture

Types of public and private buildings include the Chateau (main building type), churches, hotels, and public buildings.  Henry IV institutes Italian urban planning concepts in Paris.  French squares are frameworks for private houses.  Chateau, as country houses, are sited within natural landscapes featuring long vistas; many are located on high hills and/or along rivers. 

Exteriors of châteaux exhibit symmetry, an Italian bay system, windows placed directly over one another, and horizontal emphasis from cornices and sting courses. 

Chateau de S. Agil-

Palais de Fontainebleau-

Palace of Versailles-

Churches continue the Latin cross plan.  The plan at Chambord develops as a fortified rectangular compound with a central courtyard and corner turrets.  In it, the main building has a Greek cross and introduces the appartement, which is a suite of rooms consisting of antechamber, chambre, and cabinet.  The appartement and salon characterize French domestic architecture for the next 200 years. 

Stone is the most preferred building material followed by brick.  Roofs are usually of slate.  Vernacular buildings commonly adopt briquete entre poteaux construction (half-timber construction with brick infill covered with plaster) or pierrotage (half-timber construction with stones and clay). 

Later interpretation:  Biltmore, 1890-1895; Asheville, North Carolina by Richard Morris Hunt

The first French Renaissance interiors were created at Fontainebleau in the 1530s by Italian artists Rosso Fiorentino and Francesco Primaticcio.  Characteristics include slender nymphs with clinging drapery, garlands, scrolls, strapwork, grotesques and stucco figures.  There were not heavily followed; interiors continue to feature Gothic and classical elements. 

Galeire de Francois I, Palais de Fontainebleau-

Doors, windows, and stairways are important features.  Large, prominent chimneypieces are focal points.  The projecting hood may be decorated with classic and Gothic details, coats of arms, and/or royal and period motifs.  It does not have classical proportions, but entablatures, pilasters, and columns shapes the overall design.  Decoration is concentrated on the floors, walls, and ceilings.  Room use is flexible and has few furnishings. 

Stock photo : The stone stairway

Beamed ceilings are embellished with carving and/or brightly colored stripes, arabesques, or other repeating motifs.  Plaster ceilings are usually left plain. 

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