PATTE, Pierre
(b. 1723, Paris, d. 1814, Mantes)


French architect, writer and engraver. He was the son of an officer of the Maison du Roi and began his architectural training in the office of Germain Boffrand. Patte visited Italy in 1750, and during his career he travelled widely in France and went to England (1769) and Germany (1760s).

Like many architects in the 18th century, Patte began his career as a draughtsman and engraver. In the 1750s he prepared plates for Jacques-François Blondel's compendium, L'Architecture françoise (Paris, 1752-56), and served as director of engravings for the Encyclopédie (1757-9) of Denis Diderot and Jean le Rond d'Alembert. He also sold engravings by Giovanni Battista Piranesi, offered private instruction in architecture to laymen and published several books, including a life of Boffrand (1754) and the Mémoires de Charles Perrault (1759).

Patte was an adequate but not remarkable designer who followed the stylistic currents of his time. His practice appears to have been most active in the 1760s, when he had three major clients: the city of Grenoble, the dukes of Zweibrücken, to whom he was architect in 1761-90, and the Duc de Charost. For Grenoble, he designed a municipal granary (1756; unexecuted), a reception-room lined with Ionic pilasters (1764; destroyed) in the Hôtel de Ville and the Opéra Comique (1767; built without his supervision; remodelled).

Among his commissions for the dukes of Zweibrücken were a country house at Jägersburg (c. 1761), modelled on the Grand Trianon at Versailles, and a hunting pavilion near Petersheim (c. 1761; destroyed), both in Germany; and Neo-classical interiors for the hôtel that Duke Christian IV maintained in the Rue Saint-Augustin in Paris (1767; destroyed). The Duc de Charost commissioned Patte to design the interiors of his hôtel on the Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré (c. 1758; now the British Embassy) and another hôtel on the Rue du Pot-de-Fer (c. 1764; destroyed), both in Paris, and an austere church with a Latin-cross plan and temple front (1772-84) at Bolbec, Seine-Maritime.

Although Patte built little and never held a government post, through his publications he achieved recognition as one of the foremost authorities on construction, urban planning and theatre design in the second half of the 18th century. In his writings, he urged architects to base their designs on a thorough understanding of construction and function, and he scorned those who allowed their imaginations to overshadow practical considerations. In 1769 he challenged Jacques-Germain Soufflot's designs for the piers that were to support the dome of Sainte-Geneviève (now the Panthéon) in Paris. The debate, which raged for 30 years, was a landmark in the history of architectural engineering for the degree to which both sides supported their positions with quantitative methods of analysis and tests of building materials.

Patte made an influential contribution to the design of theatres with his Essai sur l'architecture théâtrale (1782). He applied principles of sight-lines and acoustics to determine the ellipse as the best shape for auditoria, and he used a comparative analysis of existing theatres and books on theatre design to generate design standards. He had used the comparative method as a critical tool 17 years earlier in his Monuments érigés en France a la gloire de Louis XV (1765). Here an examination of the places royales that had been built or planned in honour of Louis XV serves as a springboard for a more general discussion on urban design. Patte argued that cities, like successful buildings, must combine beauty and utility, and he advocated an integral approach to urban planning that embraced the ceremonial, political, commercial and hygienic requirements of urban life.