Renderings of a Queer Future: The Intersection of Impressionist Cinema and Cubist Architecture

Goldman, Hannah, Architectural History - School of Architecture, University of Virginia
Crane, Sheila, Department of Architectural History, University of Virginia
Sewell, Jessica, Department of Urban and Environmental Planning, University of Virginia
Levine, Alison, Department of French Language and Literatures, University of Virginia

The work of architect and set designer Robert Mallet-Stevens (French, 1886-1945) has long been occupied footnotes and passing mentions in the history of modern architecture. There have been many attempts to reclaim Mallet-Stevens’ “rightful” place in the canon. My thesis disrupts this narrative in two parts.

The first part traces the queering of Mallet-Stevens’ legacy through his collaborative process and connections to the world of fashion through his work with couturiers and cinema. These connections denigrated Mallet-Stevens in the eyes of critics like Siegfried Giedion, who deemed Mallet-Stevens’ work to be morally empty, more akin to fashion than truly “Modern” architecture. This reading has shaped the discussion of Mallet-Stevens ever since. In my thesis, I argue that a queer theory reading of Mallet-Stevens’ early work and his legacy find that he was radical for the very reasons that Giedion deemed him to be bankrupt.

The second half explores the film L’Inhumaine (1924) and Mallet-Stevens’ first work, the Villa Noailles (1924-33) in relation to one another, linked thematically and programmatically through queer theory. Both of these works construct futuristic worlds, where the occupants pursue their passions without the constraints of heteronormativity. We can also explore the relationship of cinematic and real space through the filming of these two works.

MARH (Master of Architectural History)
Mallet-Stevens, Robert, 1886-1945, L'Inhumaine (the Inhuman Woman), Villa de Noailles (Hyères, France) — History, Villa Noailles, Noailles, Charles — Vicomte de, Laure, Marie — 1902-1970, Man Ray, 1890-1976, Architectural Design — in Motion Pictures, Motion Pictures — Setting and Scenery — History
Issued Date: