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date: 08 April 2020

Cret, Paul Philippelocked

(23 October 1876–08 September 1945)
  • Sandra Tatman


Cret, Paul Philippe (23 October 1876–08 September 1945), architect and educator, was born in Lyons, France, the son of Paul Adolphe Cret and Ann Caroline Durand, both possibly employed in the silk industry, although after his father’s death, his mother became a dressmaker. His education began in the office of his uncle, an architect, and was continued at the École des Beaux-Arts in Lyons. In 1896 he was awarded the Paris Prize, enabling him to move to Paris to attend the École there and to enroll in the Atelier Pascal. Even in a larger and more competitive venue Cret gained attention, winning the Rougevin Prize in 1901. Cret’s life, however, changed in 1903, when Paul Armon Davis III, himself a former student in the Atelier Pascal, put out a call to University of Pennsylvania alumni pursuing their architectural studies abroad to nominate a candidate for professor of architectural design at the university. The alumni chose Cret, who was at first hired as an assistant professor. Then twenty-seven years of age, Cret could little know the effect that his arrival in the United States would have on the architectural community, both in Philadelphia and in the nation. Soon he was acting as patron, not only for the atelier at the University of Pennsylvania, but also for one held in the evenings under the auspices of the T-Square Club of Philadelphia. Under his direction students from the Philadelphia Atelier excelled in national competitions; beginning in 1911 Cret’s students took the Paris Prize, administered by the Society of Beaux-Arts Architects, for four consecutive years. Theo B. White, one of Cret’s architectural design students, described Cret’s working method: “Cret’s criticism was made largely on rolls of tracing paper spread over the student’s problem, drawing with a soft pencil and with a minimum of talk (quite different from the modern critic)” (White, p. 29)....

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