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Auguste Magnin in 1903: his only known photo

Auguste Magnin (1841-1903)

Auguste (Jean-Henri) Magnin is the creator of the Relief Model of 1850 Geneva, to which he devoted a good part of his life and fortune. He was born in Geneva on 13 December 1841 into a family of merchants: his father sold fuel in the Saint-Gervais quarter. The young Auguste attended primary school and high school in Geneva, showing early on a passion for models that would guide him naturally towards architecture. During his career as an architect, he probably built only one “real” building. Instead, his professional activity was divided between teaching architectural disciplines and the realization of models. In addition to his famous Relief Model, it is known that he modeled the castle of Chillon (model missing), the English Church of Geneva (photo dating from 1896) and the Palais du Trocadéro in Paris (model missing). Only one photograph of Auguste Magnin, taken in 1903, the year of his death, is known. This portrait was, apparently, made to appear alongside the Relief Model of 1850 Geneva, then on exhibit at the Business School.


1841: birth in Geneva on 13 December.

1861: admitted to the Architecture Section of the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris.

1863: leaves school without a diploma and probably works in an architecture studio.

1865: returns to Geneva.

1867: opens a workshop at 8, Rue Bonivard where he teaches architecture, technical drawing, perspective, geometry and arithmetic, modeling and the art of ornaments.

1868: moves his studio to 17, Rue des Allemands (today, Rue de la Confédération), in a building (now demolished) whose façade he redrew. Works at this site until 1898. In addition to private lessons, teaches at the gymnasium and the School of Applied Art to Industry.

1869: City of Geneva entrusts him with construction of the primary school of Saint-Gervaix (his only known building).
1873: marries Françoise Redard.

1876: birth of his first daughter, Julia (Aline).

1878: first plans for the Relief Model of 1850 Geneva.

1879: birth of second daughter, Jeanne (Françoise).

1880-1896: works on the Relief Model of 1850 Geneva, with a pause in 1893, due to lack of funds.

1896: The newly finished Relief Model of 1850 Geneva is shown to the public at the Swiss National Exhibition in Geneva. Auguste Magnin receives a gold medal for his work.

1896: completes the Model of 1815 Geneva by Pierre-David Matthey (1752-1826) adding the defensive wall and glacis.

1903: dies in Geneva on 13 March.

Drawing by Auguste Magnin: City Hall

City Hall Drawing by Auguste Magnin, from his Album des monuments de Genève en 1850

Drawing by Auguste Magnin: Saint-Peter Cathedral

Saint-Peter Cathedral

Drawing by Auguste Magnin: Prison and Maîtresse Tower

Prison and Maîtresse Tower