Oct 14 | Fabiola López-Durán: “Eugenics in the Garden”

Fabiola López-Durán
“Eugenics in the Garden: Transatlantic Architecture and the Crafting of Modernity”
Interlocutor: Beatriz Colomina
Wednesday, October 14, 2020 @5pm EST
Online Event [register here or stream here]

Drawn from López-Durán’s new book, Eugenics in the Garden: Transatlantic Architecture and the Crafting of Modernity, this talk uncovers the global trajectory of Le Corbusier’s embrace of eugenics’ ideology as a viable doctrine for the remaking of man, wherein the built environment would be put to work. Examining his alignment with eugenics—from his formulation of universal type-needs, to his Modulor and its normative human body—this talk reveals how architecture was made complicit in a genetically-inspired program that mirrored eugenics’ attempts to “improve” the human race. 


Fabiola López-Durán is Associate Professor of Art and Architectural History at Rice University. Originally trained as an architect, she earned her Ph.D. in the History, Theory and Criticism of Architecture and Art from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and completed postdoctoral training at the University of California-Berkeley’s History of Art Department. Adopting a transnational and interdisciplinary perspective, López-Durán’s research and teaching uncovers and interrogates the cross-pollination of ideas and mediums—science, politics and aesthetics—that ignited the process of modernization on both sides of the Atlantic, with an emphasis on Latin America. She has written about monocultures and architecture, biopolitics and landscape, and the complicities between capitalism, racism and the construction of the built environment. Her book, Eugenics in the Garden: Transatlantic Architecture and the Crafting of Modernity, investigates a particular strain of eugenics that, at the turn of the twentieth century, moved from the realms of medicine and law to design, architecture, and urban planning—becoming a critical instrument in the crafting of modernity. Her research has been supported by grants and fellowships from the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, the Mellon Foundation, the Dedalus Foundation, the CLIR, the Harvard Center for European Studies, the Camargo Foundation, the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, MIT France and the Fulbright Program, among others. Her book Eugenics in the Garden received a Society of Architectural Historians/Mellon Author Award in 2018, and was the winner of the Robert Motherwell Book Prize in 2019.

Beatriz Colomina is Howard Crosby Butler Professor of the History of Architecture and Co-Director of the Program in Media and Modernity at Princeton University.


Images: [top] Alphonse Bertillon, chart of physical traits for the study of the “Portrait Parle,” ca. 1909. Collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Twentieth-Century Photography Fund, 2009. [bottom]  Le Corbusier, Unité d’habitation in Marseille, 1945–1952 (the roof-terrace and its gymnasium). Photo by Rene Burri, 1959. © René Burri/Magnum Photos. Excerpted from Fabiola López-Durán, Eugenics in the Garden: Transatlantic Architecture and the Crafting of Modernity (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2018).