Prison Saint-Joseph by Louis-Pierre Baltard

Prison Saint-Joseph by Louis-Pierre Baltard
Elevation of the
main façade on the Rhône side
And general and interior view

The Saint Joseph prison in Lyon by Louis-Pierre Baltard is doubly important in the history of architecture. First of all, along with the palace of justice by the same Baltard, this is one of the most important 19th century monuments in this city. Although it occupies a discreet place on the banks of the Rhône river, and hidden by its very nature by large walls, this prison, then called Perrache, is of a monumental character well adapted to its purpose. At the time, prison architecture was not a shame, and its layout as a grid was made both magnificent and utilitarian. In this way, men, women, and young prisoners are separated and a spectacular octagonal rotunda in the center, used as a jail-chapel, brings the building together. This project, started in 1827, was the result of a long process for the choice of the site (Perrache, Côte-saint-Georges) and the study of varying layouts, begun in 1824. Baltard suggested semi-panoptical layouts for several sites but then returned to his choice of the grid, essentially for financial reasons. There were various controversies also between Paris and Lyon. This austere and impeccable architecture was thus the fruit of long consideration. The Saint Joseph prison is one of the most interesting examples of functional architecture in the first half of the 19th century.

The importance of the Saint Joseph prison is also due to its creator, who was not only Victor Baltard’s father, but also one of the great theoreticians of Neo-classicism and official architecture during the first half of the 19th century. He was a professor of architectural theory at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris from 1818 to 1846, theoretician of prison architecture (and author of Architectonographie des prisons in 1829), architect for prisons in the department of the Seine. The two very beautiful prisons of Sainte-Pélagie and Saint-Lazare, which served as a model for Saint Joseph, disappeared already in the 20th century. Further south of Lyon, there is still the palace of justice and the L’Argentière prison for those who wish to admire Louis-Pierre Baltard’s talent.

See also :

Baltard à la casse (bis repetita).

local/cache-vignettes/L115xH137/Couverture_Baltard-8efe5.jpgPierre Pinon, Louis-Pierre et Victor Baltard, Editions du Patrimoine, Editions du Patrimoine, 2005, 45 €. ISBN : 2858227063.

Version française

Pierre Pinon, lundi 20 avril 2009

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