Google celebrates bicentenary of French architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc

27 Jan 2014's homepage honouring Eugène Viollet-le-Duc on 27 January 2014

Today, Google’s iconic logo lies hidden within medieval castle walls due to an illustrated Doodle to honour Gothic Revival architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc on what would have been his 200th birthday.

Though his concept of restoration was widely criticised in his lifetime and to this day, Viollet-le-Duc is considered to be one of the first theorists of modern architecture. His architectural theory focused on finding the ideal forms for specific materials, and using these forms to create buildings. He was also noted for his drawings of iron trusswork, said to be innovative for the time and, later, to have influenced the Art Nouveau style.

Born in Paris on 27 January 1814, he studied Renaissance architecture in Italy and, on his return to France in 1835, was first commissioned to restore the Romanesque abbey of Vézelay. He went on restore many churches, town halls and castles around France, including the Basilica of St Mary Magdalene in Vézelay, the Basilica of St Denis near Paris, Château de Pierrefonds, the fortified city of Carcassonne and, most famously, Notre Dame cathedral in Paris.

Notre Dame was not only cleaned and restored under Viollet-le-Duc’s direction; it also gained a third tower. This practice of combining historical restoration with creativie modification is what caused controversy among his contemporaries. In Carcassonne, he added pointed roofs to the wall towers, an architectural feature that was more typical of northern France.

The Doodle on the homepage today reflects Viollet-le-Duc’s interpretive restoration of Carcassonne, and amidst its pointed roofs the letters spelling out the internet search engine’s name can be discovered.

Famed for his restorative work, few of Viollet-le-Duc’s original building designs were ever realised. Though he was hired to design the internal structure of the Statue of Liberty, he died before the project was completed on 17 September 1879 in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Elaine Burke is the host of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The HeadStuff Podcast Network. She was previously the editor of Silicon Republic.