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Electricity - Expo Saint-Louis 1904

Electricity at the Exhibition Expo Saint-Louis 1904

Standing firm on its broad foundations, solid on its Ionic columns and bearing high its steel armour, the Palace of Electricity has the same general characteristics of the Renaissance style, the same classical lines as the other buildings of the Exhibition.

Placed on the east side, just in front of the main lagoon and reflecting in its waters its marvellous frontispiece, while its north-western facade overlooks the great basin, in direct view of the luminous fountains, the peristyle of the Festival Palace and the Fine Arts building, bordered on the north and south by the lagoon, it is entirely surrounded by canals criss-crossed by light boats, either rowing or motorised.

It looks like a Venetian palace with wider quays, more coquettishly adorned with trees, statues and sculpted steps that go down to the water's edge and through which visitors can access. This particular situation, in the centre of the avenues leading from the bridges, contributes in large part to the general decoration.

It is shaped like a trapezium with a slight curve at its largest point. It is 200 metres long and almost 180 metres wide: no other building comes closer than 300 metres.

It has a row of simple colonnades on all sides.

The columns supported on a stylobate with marbled panels reach almost to the ground, which gives the facades more height and raises the frontispieces. These are further accentuated by ornaments on the upper parts and by the towers that dominate the four main entrances and the corners.

The main doors are supported by twin columns; they end in an arch and are continued by a rounded transom: their upper part is finished in a triangle without much ornamentation. This style is quite rare and is not found in any of the other buildings at the Exhibition.

The ends are flanked by pylons bearing a very busy crown, with decoration forming a silhouette, with bells at all angles; a statue rises to the top.

There are no decorated pediments on the doors, all of which are joined by horizontal lintels, except at the main entrances where the doors, as well as the transoms, end in arches.

All the arcades are of Ionic order; only the columns at the main entrances are composite and ornamented in the Corinthian style.

Inside the porticoes that surround the building, a flat base carries the windows, which are numerous rather than spacious. This provides adequate light while retaining a large amount of wall space, resulting in a more powerful artistic impression.

In addition, there are loggias on two sides which further increase the effects of light and shade.

The large number of openings in the facade also suits the purpose of the building and gives the illusion of a huge blaze when everything in the Palace is lit up at night.

The roof is flat, covered in zinc with spans, and pierced with numerous glass windows. Below the roofs a terrace runs around the whole building. This terrace is ornamented at close intervals with pedestals topped with vases and pavilions in the colours of the various nations represented.

There is a central courtyard reproducing exactly the plan of the Palace. This courtyard is surrounded by colonnades and decorated with flower beds and tall green plants; seats and benches are arranged, and visitors find there a quiet retreat, a charming rest among the perfumes and under the thick foliage of tropical shrubs.

This simple architecture, derived from the pure memories of the school, with no tendency to depart from the classical except in the ornamentation of the corners, a little overloaded and reminiscent of the roofs of pagodas, has required no sacrifice of interior convenience.

Plan and building are arranged for well-sectioned locations.

The interior fittings are, in fact, happily arranged and allow the development of very wide central aisles and a large number of small passages.

On one side, the heavy installations, on the other, the light ones: so that objects of the same kind, powerful machines and accessories are grouped together and appear as if on a kind of synoptic table.

The ensemble and the nature of the things exhibited, from the electric locomotive to the devices of Rœntgen and the most recent specimens of the wonders of electro-chemistry, make this palace a unique centre of attraction.

This is the temple of a young science, a science that has only just begun to speak, but which is marvelling every day with some new discovery.

"After having stolen the thunderbolt from the sky and the sceptre from the tyrants", according to the famous Latin verse dedicated to Franklin and which applies as much to science as to the scientist, will it snatch its enigma from life? Will she break the scythe in the hands of Time with a shock?

Already the fiction of Prometheus enters reality, and man begins to hope for victory, the definitive triumph over nature.

©Exposition internationale de Saint Louis 1904. Rapport général