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Paul Mellon Centre | Competing Capitals: Towards the Embellishment of London & Paris

June 23, 2021 @ 12:00 pm - 1:30 pm

A Research Seminar by Sigrid de Jong.
The cities of London and Paris went through major urban and architectural developments during the second half of the eighteenth century. Questions about the situation, spatial composition, form and meaning of buildings were vividly debated in salons, and on paper in journals, pamphlets and other publications. When thinking about how to improve and embellish their city, Parisian writers and architects often referred to the other great metropolis, London. And the same holds true for London writers; they frequently compared their city to Paris.
In the eighteenth-century texts on both cities featuring comparison and competition, the effects of buildings and the urban fabric comes to the fore, as Sigrid de Jong’s research project demonstrates. Authors describe their multi-sensory experiences while moving through the cities of London and Paris, and narrate how they approach buildings, enter them and then wander inside them. They also address how the city sounds, smells and feels. When proposing improvements for their own city and offering design examples to future architects, the aesthetic experiences of foreign buildings and urban spaces prevail. But some writers also invoke more contradictory elements of experiencing edifices and the metropolis, and include thoughts on history, cultural meaning, or social and political issues.
A Senior Research Fellow of the Paul Mellon Centre from the academic year 2019/2020, Sigrid de Jong will present part of the research she has conducted for her book project on the emergence of architectural experience in Paris and London in the period 1750–1815. In this research seminar she will address the flow of comparison, competition, rivalry and inspiration captured in the different dialogues on architecture and the city that were held across the Channel from the 1750s onward. She will analyse a choice of urban and architectural projects for the cities of London and Paris, including the Palais-Royal in the French capital, and John Gwynn’s and George Dance’s projects for the British capital.