Art: Functional Fantasy

Of all the aspects of 19th century culture to be rehabilitated, Beaux-Arts architecture was the last to come back. Art Nouveau glass is now more respectable than Renaissance majolica; the despised salon painters of the Third Empire are on show in the museums again. But it is still a surprise to find Manhattan's Museum of Modern Art displaying as its big architectural exhibition of the season a group of 200 renderings of designs and archaeological reconstructions by 19th century students at the Paris Ecole des Beaux-Arts. The thrust of modern architectural education has...