DICTIONARY OF ART HISTORIANS
A Biographical Dictionary of Historic Scholars, Museum Professionals and Academic Historians of Art
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Abraham, [Hippolyte] "Pol"
January 1, 1891
Place Born: Nantes, France
January 1, 1966
Architect and historian of medieval building, noted for his assertion that Gothic architecture's system of ribbed vaulting was unnecessary for structural reasons. Abraham served as a soldier in World War I. After the war, he worked on the reconstruction of monument destroyed by the war in the north of France. He trained in the architectural studio of Pascal et Recoura at the Ecole des beaux-arts in Paris, graduating in 1920. He further studied at the l’Ecole du Louvre between 1921 and 1924. He was briefly the editor of the periodical L’Architecte from 1923 to 1924 before opening a partnership with the architect Paul Sinoir in Paris. He was responsible for several buildings in the Ile-de-France. In 1930, he and Henry Jacques Le Même (1897-1997). The two designed sanitariums, notably at Plateau d'Assy en Haute-Savoie, Roc des Fiz (1932), de Guébriant (1932-33), de la Clairière (1934). Shortly before and after World War II, he was part of a team responsible for the reconstruction of the section of Orléans known as "Ilot IV," a combination of prefabrication and concrete according to classical design. In 1933, Abraham wrote a controversial thesis for the Ecole des beaux-arts arguing that the ribbed vault construction of the Gothic was not structurally necessary and that Gothic architecture's vaults, ribs and arches were designed to appear strong. This challenged the long-accepted views of Eugène-Emmanuel Viollet-Le-Duc (q.v.) and set off a debate among intellectuals of France that went to the core humanistic methodology.
Sources: Heyman, Jacques. The Stone Skeleton: Structural Engineering of Masonry Architecture. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1995, pp. 66, 88; Sanabria, Sergio L. "Perils of Certitude in the Structural Analysis of Historic Masonry Buildings." Annals of Science 57, no. 4 (October 1, 2000): 447-453; Long, Pamela O. "The Annales and the History of Technology." Technology and Culture 46 (January 2005): 184-185; Lecrocq, Louis. "Un process en revision: Le problème de la croissée d'ogives." Annales d'histoire économique et sociale 7 (November 1935): 644-646; [obituary:] L'Architecture d'Aujourd'hui 36 (February 1966): xxiii;
Bibliography: "Nouvelle explication de l'architecture religieuse gothique." Gazette des Beaux-Arts 6 no. v, part 11 (May 1934): 257-71; Viollet-Le-Duc et le rationalisme médiéval. Paris: Vincent, Fréal & cie, 1934; and Focillon, Henri, and Godfrey, Walter H. Le problème de l'ogive. Paris: 1939.