Research

  • The Architecture of Disability in Modern France
  • GRANTEE
    Sun-Young Park
    GRANT YEAR
    2018

The gymnasium at the Institute for Blind Youth. Source: Edmond Texier, Tableau de Paris (Paris: Paulin et Le Chevalier, 1853), 2:193. Courtesy of BnF.

Spanning the eras between 1750 and 1950, The Architecture of Disability in Modern France analyzes architectural and urban designs for disabled subjects on one hand, and recovers their negotiation of environments created for “normalized” subjects on the other. In these decades of political, social, and intellectual revolutions, and as conceptions of disability shifted from moral to scientific terms, material interfaces played increasingly formative roles in programs of education, therapy, and integration. This book traces the architectural evolution of the earliest special-needs institutions, starting with the Enlightenment-era Royal Institute for Blind Youth and National Institute for Deaf-Mutes. It also examines urban reform measures that gradually made cities more navigable for the disabled, from hygienic innovations to Braille system implementation and movement toward accessible design. Ultimately, it argues that these developments struck at the heart of charged debates on citizenship and the public sphere in a society transitioning from monarchism to republicanism.

Sun-Young Park is an architectural and urban historian specializing in modern France, currently assistant professor in George Mason University’s Department of History and Art History. Her work lies at the intersection of cultural history, the history of the built environment, and the history of medicine. Her first book, Ideals of the Body: Architecture, Urbanism, and Hygiene in Postrevolutionary Paris, is forthcoming with the University of Pittsburgh Press. Park received a BA in Architecture from Princeton University, and an MArch and PhD in the history of architecture and urbanism from Harvard University. Her research has been supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Society of Architectural Historians, the Whiting Foundation, and the Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies at Harvard, among others.