German-born architect and scholar. He settled in Paris (1811), and studied under Percier from whom he acquired his ‘liberal’ Classicism and eclectic philosophy. He worked with Bélanger on the creation of the iron-and-glass dome of the Halle au Blé, Paris (1808–13), during which he met Joseph Lecointe (1783–1858), which led to the two men being appointed Architects for all ceremonial occasions after Bélanger's death in 1818. They quickly became fashionable architects, designing many interiors for wealthy patrons. Hittorff travelled in England, Germany, and Italy (1820–4) during which he became interested in the problem of polychromy in Ancient Greek architecture and, with Ludwig Zanth, published Architecture antique de la Sicile (1827) in which his record of traces of painted decorations on the Greek temples was publicly attacked by scholars in 1830. However, he became one of the leaders of the Société Libre des Beaux-Arts, publicized his ideas, and obtained various important commissions, including alterations to the Place de la Concorde (1832–40) and the Champs-Élysées (1834–40). His first great Parisian building was the Church of St-Vincent-de-Paul, sketched out first by Jean-Baptiste Lepère (1761–1844) in 1824 (the year in which Lepère became Hittorff's father-in-law), but completely redesigned and built by Hittorff (1830–48). It is a particularly beautiful basilica in the Early Christian style, with two rows of superimposed colonnades carrying the timber trusses of the roof, an apsidal chancel, and the whole interior strongly coloured in a manner Hittorff insisted was a modern expression of Greek Antiquity. The exterior has an Ionic portico set against a plain façade flanked by two square towers. The building is not only important for its use of colour, but because its exterior anticipates the Beaux-Arts Classicism of the late C19. Hittorff wished to extend polychromy to the exterior, proposing enamelled panels for the wall of the portico as well as lavish colour elsewhere, but the plans were blocked by Haussmann after he inspected a trial section. Lave emaillée (enamelled fired sheets) was the material Hittorff intended to use (it had been invented in 1827 and was manufactured by Hachette et Cie from 1833 for fire-surrounds, table-tops, and even altar-frontals), but the ideas for the church were not implemented. Nevertheless, St-Vincent-de-Paul was an important landmark in the development of a free eclecticism drawing on many sources that was to be of such significance in C19 French architecture. His most innovative structures, however, were Rotonde des Panoramas (1838–9—destroyed 1857), with its suspended roof, the Cirque National (1839–41), with elegant lattice-trusses (both 1834–40), and the Cirque Napoléon (1851–2—now Cirque d'Hiver) also with lattice-trusses, which established his reputation as an innovative architect.
A renewal of interest in polychromy in the 1850s encouraged Hittorff to bring out his Architecture polychrome chez les Grecs (1851), which was successful, and silenced his enemies. He enjoyed favour under the new regime of Napoleon III (1852–70), designing a series of handsome houses in Paris in the vicinity of the Place de l'Étoile (1852–5), the Mairie of the First Arondissement (1855–61), the Grand Hôtel du Louvre, Place du Théâtre Français (1856–9—with Alfred Armand (1805–88), J. -A. -F. -A. Pellechet (1829–1903), and C. Rohault de Fleury), and, finally, his best-known building, the Gare du Nord (1859–66), where his main contribution appears to have been a ‘tidyingup’ of what was essentially a design by the Railway Company's engineers. Nevertheless, it is an excellent example of how the new Beaux-Arts Classicism could be used in conjunction with iron-and-glass structures: some of the trusses were designed by Antoine-Rémi Polonceau (1778–1847), and all the castings done in Glasgow.