History of Art and Architecture

HAA 1407 Architecture and Enlightenment

This course will examine architecture, city planning, interior design, and gardening in eighteenth-century Europe as the product of social, industrial, administrative, and intellectual transformations that began to radically challenge traditional spatial configurations and conventional approaches to building. In cosmopolitan centers like London and Paris, an unprecedented explosion of print media, rapid rises in literacy, and the development of a public sphere outside official power structures opened debate in the arts to previously marginal figures. A range of new voices thus emerged that impacted policy decisions in the urban realm and proffered advice and guidance in thinking about aesthetics and artistic production. The rise of science held out the possibility that cities and institutions could be reshaped to improve human welfare through better hygiene and the expansion of commerce. Influential new classes defined by wealth or specialized knowledge generated the creation of building types for a range of new activities. Elite domestic space in particular reflects a wholesale transformation of social priorities motivated by the novel concept of privacy. Narrowly defined Renaissance discourses on the arts founded exclusively on the model of ancient Rome collapsed under an avalanche of data gathered in remote sites around the Mediterranean and through contact with more far-flung civilizations around the world. New intellectual paradigms reconfigured the relationship between individual and nature, between modern present and historical past. Consequently, the purpose of architecture mutated in the course of the eighteenth century as a bewildering range of new possibilities for shaping building and reshaping social relations were explored. Well before political revolution rocked European governments and toppled traditional hierarchies, the built environment served as a laboratory for experimentation and as a forum for reimagining society.