Current Institutional Affiliation
Doctoral Candidate, History of Art and Architecture, Harvard University

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2018
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Art History/Architecture, Harvard University
The World is a Composition: Beaux-Arts Design and Internationalism, 1867-1932

In the final decades of the nineteenth century, the Paris École des Beaux-Arts became a hub of cosmopolitan activity as aspiring architects from across Europe, the Near East, and the Americas flocked to the architecture section of the French national academy for its design methods, which they used in commissions for monumental civic buildings around the world. Scholars have focused on the school's prominent French and American alumni and their designs for centralized state institutions in France and the United States, respectively. This dissertation departs from familiar narratives of nationalism to resituate Beaux-Arts design as part of a parallel phenomenon: the rise of "universal" standards and systems to bolster connections between nation states and within colonial empires. I examine the universalism attributed to the school's design methods, which were thought to be applicable at any site or scale. The most salient among these, I argue, was "composition": the orderly arrangement of elements in a building's plan. With support from SSRC, I will visit understudied archival and primary source collections to track the expansion of Beaux-Arts composition from architecture, to colonial and capital city planning, to the organization of new institutions devoted to supranational governance. My proposed research in entangled sites—Algiers, Buenos Aires, and the Panama Canal Zone—will consider how composition facilitated new systems of international exchange. Additional questions emerge: How did Beaux-Arts design expertise arrive in new geopolitical contexts and intersect with other transnational flows of capital, culture, and labor? To what extent did Beaux-Arts architecture shape visions of an international world order? By addressing these concerns, my dissertation will provide the first global history of Beaux-Arts architecture and thus shed new light on the cultural dimensions of fin-de-siècle internationalism and its valences with colonialism and imperialism.