Paul Phillipe Cret (1876-1945)


Cret, Paul Phillipe

Personal Information

Birth/Death:    b. 23 October 1876 - d. 08 September 1945
Occupation:    American architect
Location:    Philadelphia, PA

AIA Affiliation

Member of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) 1908-decease
Fellow of the American Institute of Architects (FAIA) 1913
Recipient of the AIA Gold Medal 1938

Biographical Sources

Biographical Directories:
Entry in Henry F. Withey, A.I.A., and Elsie Rathburn Withey, Biographical Dictionary of American Architects (Deceased) (Los Angeles: New Age Publishing Company, 1956. Facsimile edition, Hennessey & Ingalls, Inc., 1970)
Entry in Macmillan Encyclopedia of Architects (New York: Macmillan, 1982)
Entry in Richard Guy Wilson, The AIA Gold Medal (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1984)
Entry in Biographical Dictionary of Cincinnati Architects, 1788-1940.

Biographical Information:
Contributed by the Alexander Architectural Archive, University of Texas Libraries, The University of Texas:
      Born in Lyon, France in 1876, Paul Cret attended the Ecole Des Beaux-Arts in Paris from 1897-1903. Upon graduation, he accepted a teaching position at the University of Pennsylvania where he taught until retiring in 1937. During his tenure as a professor in design, the architectural program enjoyed a nationwide reputation for excellence.
      Cret established a successful practice in Philadelphia specializing in the design of public buildings. His firm was particularly adept at garnering commissions through architectural competitions. Among such commissions were the Pan-American Union Building (1907-1917) in Washington, DC and the Indianapolis Public Library (1914-1917). His designs represent the height of the Beaux-Arts movement in the United States, characterized by the symmetrical, axially disposed plans with elevations articulated by historicist detailing derived from antiquity and the Renaissance. This style was found appropriate to monumental public buildings of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Cret was a master with Beaux-Arts principles of design, but his true genius was in his ability to synthesize this style with the new modernist values.
      Cret's most productive years were between 1919-1930. He received commissions for war memorials and bridges, such as the Delaware River Bridge (1920-1926). In 1928 he joined the planning commission for Chicago's Century of Progress Exposition of 1933. It was the public buildings, most notably the Detroit Institute of Arts (1919-1927) with its innovative galleries designed in styles appropriate to the art on display that established Cret as one of America's foremost architects.
      In 1930, Cret was retained by The University of Texas as consulting architect for the development of a master plan for the Austin campus. By 1931 the creation of the Permanent University Fund, based on oil income for state lands allowed the University to begin construction on the buildings that were, up to that time, ideas on paper. During the next fifteen years, Cret continued his comprehensive building design for The University of Texas' Austin campus. Cret died in 1945, but his firm, which changed its name to Harbeson, Hough, Livingston and Larson, continued his work, focusing on the completion of the buildings facing the south mall. The firm is known today as H2L2 Architects/Planners.

Related Records

Harbeson, Hough, Livingston & Larson (firm)

Archival Holdings

The American Institute of Architects Archives
      Membership file contains membership application, Fellowship nomination, correspondence about Institute and professional matters, biography/resume prepared for the AIA Board during nomination for Gold Medal, obituaries, correspondence about the memorial issue of Federal Architect, and later biographical data and list of works from partner John Harbeson. Cret's Gold Medal file includes correspondence about the ceremony and speeches. Volume 14, no. 2, of Federal Architect was entirely devoted to memorial articles about Cret and illustrations of his works. Its publication and distribution to all AIA members was subsidized by the AIA.

Alexander Architectural Archive, University of Texas Libraries, The University of Texas
      Paul Philippe Cret Drawings, Photographic Material, and Papers
This collection includes drawings (site plans, floor plans, elevations, sections, full scale details, landscape plans, blueprints, diagrams, and presentation renderings), all of which are arranged numerically by job number, as well as unprocessed photographic material. The drawings document the design work Cret did at the University of Texas (1930-1945) with emphasis on the master development plan for The University of Texas Austin campus. The records of The University of Texas Supervising Architects Office contain copies of much of the correspondence between Cret and the University. The Architecture and Planning Library holds specifications and reports relating to Cret's plans and buildings in its special collections.
      For more information https://www.lib.utexas.edu/about/locations/alexander-architectural-archives