Euguene Bourdon 1870 - 1916 >

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the death of Eugène Bourdon, The Glasgow School of Art’s first professor of architectural design who was killed in France at the Battle of the Somme in 1916. 

Born in Paris on 16 July 1870, Bourdon studied at the École des beauxarts in Paris as a pupil of the Atelier Honoré Daumet and it was here that he gained the knowledge and experience that would shape his later career as an architectural educationalist.

After graduating in 1896, Bourdon worked for a time at the Paris Exposition Universelle of 1900 as an inspector for the French Government before moving to New York where it is likely that he worked on one of the city’s earliest skyscraper buildings.

Returning to Paris, Bourdon was subsequently interviewed by Adolphe Giraldon, The Glasgow School of Art’s newly appointed Professor of Design about whether he would consider writing a report on the current situation of architectural training in Glasgow. Bourdon agreed and having visited Glasgow early in 1904, a report (in part, recommending the appointment of a beaux-arts trained Professor to lead the School’s newly created Department of Architectural Design) was compiled and presented to The Glasgow School of Art. Impressed by his credentials, the School approached Bourdon to see whether he would be interested in taking up the post himself and he accepted.

Over the next decade, Bourdon helped establish the Department of Architecture as one of the most important programmes at The Glasgow School of Art, recognising the merits of past traditions of classicism and the beaux-arts with the needs and demands of a modern world. Bourdon himself wrote that “the architect must have a complete training as a practical builder and as a man of business he must be a man of education, in a word, he must be a professional”.

At the outbreak of the First World War, Bourdon who had previously served with the French Army Reserve, secured leave of absence from The Glasgow School of Art and joined up as a regular soldier rising to the rank of Staff Captain. His brave actions earned him a number of citations including the awarding of the Croix de la Legion d’Honneur but on the evening of 1 July 1916, the first day of the Somme offensive, Bourdon was tragically killed. He has no known grave.