(b. 1625, Blandy-en-Brie, d. 1686, Paris)


French architect. He was from a family of carpenters that supplied the château of Vaux-le-Vicomte with building timber, and received his first commissions from the religious orders of the Counter-Reformation and their devout patrons connected with Nicolas Fouquet. He designed novices' quarters (destroyed in 19th century) and the chapel at the Institution de l'Oratoire, Paris (1655; now St Vincent-de-Paul hospital), and the convent for the Benedictine Sisters of the Holy Sacrament, Paris (1658; destroyed after 1796), financed by Queen Anne of Austria. For Fouquet himself, he fortified Belle-Isle, Morbihan (1660-61).

Although Gittard retained landed and professional interests in his native Brie (he restored the church of St Aspais, Melun, in 1676), he moved to Paris, buying an architect's commission in the Bâtiments du Roi as early as 1655; throughout his life he was to engage in building - and property-speculation in the parish of Saint-Sulpice as did Louis and François Le Vau on the Ile Saint-Louis. His plans for the huge new church of Saint-Sulpice were preferred to those of Louis Le Vau: Gittard supplied the general design and built the sanctuary, ambulatory, apsidal chapels, transept and north portal (1670-78), after which work was suspended for lack of funds. The nave and side-chapels were built in 1719-45 by Gilles-Marie Oppenordt and Giovanni Servandoni, to Gittard's designs.

Gittard was also employed by Louis II de Bourbon, Prince de Condé - the Grand Condé - and his son, Henri-Jules. Gittard undertook the architectural side of André Le Nôtre's garden at the Condé château at Chantilly (from 1663), which included forecourt, terraces, garden staircases, pavilions, hydraulic buildings and an orangery (partly destroyed). He collaborated with Claude Perrault on the Hôtel de Condé, Paris (destroyed c. 1770), and he restored and completed their suburban château of Saint-Maur, Val-de-Marne (c. 1673-82; destroyed 1796). The Condé commissions extended to their buildings in Burgundy where they were governors. Gittard designed the diocesan seminary in Autun (1675; now Lycée Militaire), and began modernizing the former Palais Ducal (Palais des Etats) in Dijon (1682-84; now Musée des Beaux-Arts); he designed a wing for the Palais Ducal, the south esplanade, a terraced wall and a Doric portal (destroyed 1782).

Gittard also undertook private commissions in Paris. His best-documented hôtel (1670-71; destroyed 1875) was built for the heirs of Olivier Selvois, a financier formerly of Fouquet's circle.

A much-consulted member of the Académie Royale d'Architecture from its foundation in 1671, Gittard nevertheless received no royal commissions, perhaps because of his early connection with Fouquet; but the city authorities entrusted him, along with Claude Perrault, with the design for the Porte Saint-Antoine triumphal arch (1670; unfinished and destroyed). His last Parisian work was the church of Saint-Jacques-du-Haut-Pas (1674-85), where he tried to impose some of his boldest formulae on Jansenist patrons.

Gittard's handling of mouldings and his fondness for domes and colossal orders have been compared to Louis Le Vau's. Nevertheless, many features of his style were remarkably original: elongated proportions and a virtuoso handling of oval-domed vaulting patterns, set on straight or circular lines, are found in the chevet of Saint-Sulpice and the nave of Saint-Jacques; an interest in Gothic vaulting was expressed in debates at the Académie d'Architecture about Saint-Sulpice, while a concern for local building traditions was manifested in the use of Burgundian polychrome glazed tiles at Autun. Gittard had a care for expressiveness that at times verged on the expressionistic: he invented a 'French Order' based on bunches of sunflowers for Saint-Sulpice in 1674, and designed for Saint-Jacques bulbous, thorny, club-shaped spires (unbuilt), in allusion to the saint's martyrdom. It is perhaps Gittard's exclusion from royal commissions and the alteration or destruction of many of his works that have prevented a proper appreciation of his qualities as an architect.