Paul-Philippe Cret fonds

Paul-Philippe Cret fonds

Part of


  • Paul Philippe Cret (architect)
  • Paul Philippe Cret (archive creator)


Paul-Philippe Cret fonds

Dates of creation

circa 1907-1950


  • archives

Level of archival description


Extent and Medium

  • Approximately 1,187 drawings and reproductions.

Scope and Content

Paul-Philippe Cret fonds, 1907-1950, documents in detail the design process and decoration of the winning competition project for the International Bureau of American Republics, now known as the Pan American Union Building, in Washington D.C. (1907). The records of the fonds include architectural and technical drawings, including plans, elevations, and wiring and plumbing diagrams. These drawings show the general building as well as its parts such as the assembly room, the conference room, the terrace, the library, and the garden, among others. The fonds also documents elements and details of the structure and applications, as well as architectural and decorative finishes such as coursework, parapets, columns, pedestals, chimneys, windows, stairs, doors, etc., including furniture layout. Finally, they comprise of designs of decorative works of art such as reliefs, stained glass windows, exterior stonework and interior woodwork, fountains, and the Artigas monument (1949), among others.

Reference Number



The fonds has not yet been arranged.

Biographical notes

Paul-Philippe Cret (1876-1945), was born in Lyon France. In 1893 he entered the architecture school at Lyon’s École des Beaux-Arts. In 1897, while in school, he won the Prix de Paris which enabled him to continue his studies at Paris’ École des Beaux-Arts and become a member of the atelier of architect Jean-Louis Pascal (1837-1920). In 1903, he was offered the position of assistant professor of architectural design at the School of Architecture at the University of Pennsylvania in the United States, where he worked until 1937. He received an honorary degree from the university in 1913.

In 1907, together with Albert Kelsey (1870-1950), he won the competition for the design of the International Bureau of American Republics (known as the Pan American Union Building), constructed with Copeland Furber as consulting engineer. The building, located at 17th St., Northwest, Washington D.C., is the headquarters for the Organization of American States. The design and construction were developed between 1908 and 1910.

In the summer of 1914, Cret was with his wife Marguerite Lahalle visiting his father-in-law’s country home at Beauvois, in Loiret, France, when World War I broke out. Cret reported for duty and served as soldier. He was awarded the Croix de Guerre for his service and in 1925, was made a member of the Légion d’honneur.

Cret’s architectural style was described as classical (beaux-arts style) and was applied to civic and public buildings. By the 1920s, he slowly shifted into an eclectic style, synthetizing the beaux-arts techniques of axes and symmetry with the new modernist values, something that he called ‘new classicism’ [1]. One project with this ‘new classicism’ style is the World War I memorial at Château-Thierry (1928). This style was later referenced by German architect Albert Speer (1905-1981), appointed official architect of the Third Reich, and therefore is now viewed as an established fascist style.

Cret served as consulting architect for the American Battle Monuments Commission from 1923 until his death, working on several monuments and memorials projects. Cret had an artistic approach to architectural design, envisioning his projects as pieces of art being part of the public space. Also, he frequently worked with sculptors and painters like in the bas-relief’s panels in the façade of the Folger Shakespeare Library (1929-1932), the adorned exterior of the Federal Reserve Board Building (1937) [2], the mural at the Hispanic Reading Room of the Library of Congress (1939), among others. In 1940 he was appointed to the United States Commission on the Fine Arts as a recognition for his role in city planning work.

Cret also worked as planning consultant to universities such as the University of Pennsylvania, the Brown University and the University of Texas, among others.

During his first year at the University of Pennsylvania, in 1903, Cret stablished a private architectural firm composed mainly by former students such as John Harbeson, William Hough, William Livingston and Roy Larson. After his death, the firm changed its name to Harbeson, Hough, Livingston and Larson. Today the firm is known as H2L2 Architects/Planners.

[1] Leatherbarrow, D. (2014). Bridging Engineering and Architecture. Montréal Architectural Review 1, pp. 21-30

[2] Rybczynski, W. (2014). The Late, Great Paul Cret. The New York Times Magazine https://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/21/t-magazine/the-late-great-paul-cret.html

Conditions governing access

  • Access by appointment only.

Conditions governing reproduction

  • For copyright information or permission to reproduce material from the fonds, please contact the CCA (reproductions@cca.qc.ca).

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

  • Gift of the firm H2L2 Architects/Planners in 1988

Custodial history

The fonds was held by the firm H2L2 Architects/Planners, the successor of Paul-Philippe Cret’s firm after his death, until its donation to the CCA in 1988

Archivist's note

  • In March 2021, Alejandro de la Fuente created a fonds level description using the legacy inventory of the Paul-Philippe Cret fonds.

Credit line

When citing the collection, use the citation: Paul-Philippe Cret fonds, Collection Centre Canadien d’Architecture/Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montréal. When citing specific collection material, please refer to the object’s specific credit line.

Language of material


Related units of description

  • For a revision of Paul-Philippe Cret’s personal records and office documentation see the Philadelphia Athenaeum’s Cret collection which holds the bulk of Cret’s drawings and textual documents: https://www.philadelphiabuildings.org/pab/app/ar_display_projects.cfm/22472 Other resources: The Texas University Archives: https://legacy.lib.utexas.edu/taro/utaaa/00016/aaa-00016.html The Library of the University of Pennsylvania, Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts, Paul Philippe Cret papers Ms. Coll. 295: http://dla.library.upenn.edu/dla/pacscl/ead.pdf?id=PACSCL_UPENN_RBML_MsColl295 The University of Columbia Paul Philippe Cret architectural drawings, 1901-1936: https://clio.columbia.edu/catalog/3460556/ For a revision of photographs of the Pan American Building see the Theodor Horydczak Collection, at the Library of Congress (US), Prints and Photographs Division.

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