History dans le Boudoir

Is the myth of “pure originality” still a worthy target of criticism in 2024?

In the introduction to his magisterial 2012 book The Future of Architecture Since 1889, the late historian Jean-Louis Cohen commented that he found it “impossible to limit a history of the relationships structuring twentieth-century architecture to a list of aesthetic ‘influences,’”—a term, he adds, that he has “consciously avoided.” In this desire to move beyond his predecessors’ influence-based approaches, Cohen was hardly alone. Important new works of architectural history are more likely to deal with such varied topics as the politics of construction labor, the exercise of colonial authority through building projects, or the patterns of usage of a particular building type than with the influence of, say, Frank Lloyd Wright on Mies van der Rohe. As the field has concerned itself with architecture’s implication in the workings of the world, its prior emphasis on delineating those internal li…

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