Panorama as Critical Restoration: Examining the ephemeral space of Viollet-le-Duc’s study at La Vedette

Aisling O’Carroll, “Panorama as critical restoration: Examining the ephemeral space of Viollet-le-Duc’s study at La Vedette,” in Homes, Nations and Empires, and Ephemeral Exhibition Spaces 1750–1918, eds. Dominique Bauer and Camilla Murgia, (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2021), 21–52.

La Vedette, the final home of French architect Eugène-Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc, was completed in 1874 in Lausanne, Switzerland. The house contained the architect’s most ambitious restoration project: the reconstitution of Mont Blanc. Spanning two walls of his study, Viollet-le-Duc constructed an idealised mountain landscape through a painted panorama. Rather than depicting an existing site, he composed the landscape by synthesizing his geological knowledge with artistic technique. The room entangled the space of restoration with the architect’s private, personal, and professional life. This chapter will examine Viollet-le-Duc’s use of drawing and representation as methods of restoration in order to understand the speculative nature of the panorama and its function as a critical tool for restoration: simultaneously an act of creation and reproduction.