From Liberation to Revolt: Architecture and Modernisation in France 1944-1968

Dr Nick Bullock

This course charts the course of the modernisation of France through the medium of architecture and the city. It is less a course about French architecture and more an exploration of the way in which architecture and the planning of the city help us to understand the most important social, economic and political developments in France during a period of rapid change. It starts in 1944 with the euphoria of the Liberation and the belief that Modern Architecture was to play a vital role in the reconstruction and modernisation of France and French society. It will end with the loss of optimism and the emergence of Post-Modernism in the turbulent years of the late 1960s as the post-war belief in the benefits of Modernisation is assailed by mounting doubts and shaken by the student revolt of 1968 and the economic consequences of the oil crisis.

Discussing the architecture of Modernisation in the particular setting of post-war France has real advantages. Doing so not only makes it possible to understand the nuances of meaning that surround the ‘reading’ of key terms, texts and buildings, it provides a basis for exploring (and explaining) why the development of architecture differs from one country to another: thus an account of the role played by both the Beaux-Arts and Le Corbusier is essential to understanding of French architecture before 1968. Equally, if we wish to understand what many came to see as the failure of Modernisation to create, through architecture and planning, a new and better society, we must look to the wider social, economic and political history of Modernisation in France during this period.

The course will consider in a generally chronological sequence a number of themes: future and the past in the architecture of reconstruction; America and competing definitions of French modernity; the contested relationship between the mainstream profession and the avant-garde, from Le Corbusier to the Situationists; Modern Architecture and the Classical and Regionalist traditions; the architectural fascination of new technologies of construction; the architecture of social housing and the promise of a better society; Modernism and the problematic embrace of business and the State;the changing ideal of the new dwelling and consumerism; the ideal of the New City and the challenge of transforming Paris and the Paris region.

This course is aimed at: Architecture majors, history majors, those with a general interest in post-war France, art history majors with an interest in architecture and those with an interest in the humanities in general.

Pre-requisite knowledge required: No technical knowledge and no specialised methodological knowledge is required. No pre-requisite kowledge of French will be required, but those students who speak French can benefit from additional material in .pdf and other formats.


  • 1 Final Exam: 45%
  • 1 Final Essay: 45%
  • Participation: 10%

Lecture Hours: 12 x 1 hour 15 minutes (total 15 hours)

Seminar Hours: 8 x 1 hour 15 minutes (total 10 hours)