Speculating on Architecture: Morality, the New Real Estate, and the Bourgeois Apartment Industry in Late Nineteenth-Century France


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships


History of Architecture


This dissertation examines the effects of a rapidly growing real estate market on the architecture of the French bourgeois apartment. The new practice of speculative design, and the 240,000 apartment houses built between 1852 and 1862, were a crucial part of architecture’s transformation into a commodity. The apartment industry prompted an architecture without patrons—that is, the idea that one might design for an unknown future occupant—and this in turn provoked the conservative concerns of nationalism, bureaucracy, and Catholicism. Studying the real estate market, the apartment house, and the discursive context that shaped them opens the door to a new understanding of capitalist architecture as well as the explicitly reactionary moralization of design that it left in its wake.