The Opera House

   The opera house was the most 
   novel and creative building of 
   the Second Empire with an 
   exuberant neo-classical style 
   and a persistent baroque 
   character. Its architect, 
   Charles Garnier, and many of 
   its admirers saw in it a new, 
   imperial style. The structure 
   was the product of a 
   competition in 1861. The 
   winning architect did not need 
   to relate his design to any 
   nearby building since the 
   adjoining facades would be the 
   subject of a submissive 
   architectural ordinance. He 
   used a closed arcade of arches 
   at the entrance level and a 
   Corinthian colonnade of paired 
   columns above. The carved 
   decoration was the most exotic 
   ever seen in Paris. The massing 
   and volumes, inspired partly by 
   the requirements of a huge, 
   modern theater, and of the 
   vista up the Avenue de lâOp*ra, 
   supplemented by the architectâs 
   fantasies, were the main source 
   of novelty. As a building of 
   pleasure, visited solely by the 
   rich, the opera house 
   symbolized the life of the 
   imperial elite. This special 
   role helps to explain why 
   Garnierâs opera house had 
   little influence on the style 
   of public architecture in the 
   1860s.
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