This seminar will take a selective approach to French Visionary Architecture in the late 18th century. We will focus on some of the significant motifs, themes, and conceptions of architecture that course their way through the works of Étienne-Louis Boullee (1728–1799), Claude-Nicolas Ledoux (1736–1806), and Jean-Jacques Lequeu (1757–1826), among others. Our starting point will be Emil Kaufmann’s important study, published in 1952, which put these so-called revolutionary architects on the map and posited the Enlightenment as the crucial starting point for understanding modernism in architecture. We will consider such issues as the role played by drawing for presenting largely unbuilt structures, the impact of theorists such as Marc-Antoine Laugier, the relation of architectural form to philosophical categories such as Nature and the Sublime, the emergence of concepts such as architecture parlante, and the dreamed rapport between utopia and the organized city. Readings include the architects in question as well as excerpts from period texts (Burke, Durand, Kant, Laugier, Mercier, Morelly, Rousseau, and the Marquis de Sade) and modern scholarship (Braham, Etlin, Gay, Herrmann, Pérouse de Montclos, Picon, Rosenau, Vidler, and Vogt).
Final grade based on class participation, short written responses to readings, oral presentation, and a research paper.