L'appareil de l'architecture moderne : new materials and architectural modernity in France, 1889-1934
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This dissertation is an historical inquiry into the role played by new building materials in the formation of architectural modernism in France. It proceeds on the theoretical assumption that a "material" is not a technical given -- a securely defined entity in the physical and linguistic senses -- but an architectural construct whose "inherent properties" are a matter of interpretation. It suggests that within a specific architectural culture, the conceptions and uses of a material are defined by concerns that are not only constructional but involve architectural doctrines, building practices, aesthetic projects, and cultural strategies. Since the publication of Sigfried Giedion's Bauen in Frankreich. Bauen in Eisen. Bauen in Eisenbeton (1928), reinforced concrete has been commonly accepted as the common denominator of French modernism. The dissertation questions this interpretive assumption, focusing on the changing conceptions of the material as an index of transformations in French architecture and architectural culture. It covers a period that spans from the Universal Exhibition of 1889 to the early 1930s, a period which saw the development of reinforced concrete in French architecture, from its emergence within architectural discourses to its inscription within early modernist historiography. Through a close examination of contemporary books and periodicals, unpublished sources, and graphic documents, the dissertation explores the theories and works that framed the critical relationship of new material to French modernism. Inaugurated with the late nineteenth-century demise of metal as the leading material in architectural theory, the preeminence of reinforced concrete in French architecture was marked by the dispersion of rationalist tenets into competing architectural programs. The First World War was a pivotal event in this process. Of principal importance were the positions of Auguste Perret and Le Corbusier. While Perret insisted on continuity with prewar practices, emphasizing the role of craft production, Le Corbusier embraced the rupture brought about by the societe machinique, shifting towards the idea of industrialized construction. These positions were key to the technical and aesthetic definition of the modem house, from the function of the concrete frame to the nature of external revetments. They also led the way to the cultural and ideological debates that ensued on the nationality of the material and the sources of modem architecture. In the late 1920s the return of metal merely underscored the "rhetoric of materials" in the definition of French modernism.
Thesis (Ph. D.)--Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dept. of Architecture and Planning, 1997.Includes bibliographical references (v. 3, leaves 470-517).
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Dept. of Architecture; Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dept. of Urban Studies and Planning
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Architecture, Urban Studies and Planning