Past Events

Competing Capitals: Towards the Embellishment of London and Paris

Research Seminar – Sigrid de Jong

  • 23 June 2021
  • 6:00 – 7:30 pm
  • This series of Research Seminars will be delivered by our Senior Fellows who were awarded in 2019 to talk on the research they have conducted as part of their fellowship.

The cities of London and Paris went through major urban and architectural developments during the second half of the eighteenth century. Questions about the situation, spatial composition, form and meaning of buildings were vividly debated in salons, and on paper in journals, pamphlets and other publications. When thinking about how to improve and embellish their city, Parisian writers and architects often referred to the other great metropolis, London. And the same holds true for London writers; they frequently compared their city to Paris.

In the eighteenth-century texts on both cities featuring comparison and competition, the effects of buildings and the urban fabric comes to the fore, as Sigrid de Jong’s research project demonstrates. Authors describe their multi-sensory experiences while moving through the cities of London and Paris, and narrate how they approach buildings, enter them and then wander inside them. They also address how the city sounds, smells and feels. When proposing improvements for their own city and offering design examples to future architects, the aesthetic experiences of foreign buildings and urban spaces prevail. But some writers also invoke more contradictory elements of experiencing edifices and the metropolis, and include thoughts on history, cultural meaning, or social and political issues.

A Senior Research Fellow of the Paul Mellon Centre from the academic year 2019/2020, Sigrid de Jong will present part of the research she has conducted for her book project on the emergence of architectural experience in Paris and London in the period 1750–1815. In this research seminar she will address the flow of comparison, competition, rivalry and inspiration captured in the different dialogues on architecture and the city that were held across the Channel from the 1750s onward. She will analyse a choice of urban and architectural projects for the cities of London and Paris, including the Palais-Royal in the French capital, and John Gwynn’s and George Dance’s projects for the British capital.

About the speaker

  • Headshot of Sigrid de Jong against background of bookshelf.

    Sigrid de Jong is a senior researcher and lecturer at the Department of Architecture, gta Institute, ETH Zürich, and teaches the history and theory of architecture. From 2016 to 2019 she conducted a research project entitled ‘Experience and Design: The Emergence of Architectural Experience in Paris and London, 1750–1815’ at Leiden University, funded by the talent scheme of NWO (Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research). She is currently finishing the manuscript of her book resulting from this research, for which she was awarded a Senior Fellowship from the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art in London in 2019.

    She holds a PhD in architectural history and theory from Leiden University and was a postdoctoral researcher in a project on primitivism and architectural theory (1750–1850). She is the author of several articles in journals (Architectural Histories, Architectural History, Art History, Dix-Huitième Siècle, Journal of Architecture) and in monographs (Semper, Labrouste, Soufflot). Her book Rediscovering Architecture: Paestum in Eighteenth-Century Architectural Experience and Theory was published by Yale University Press in 2014. Together with Caroline van Eck she is the editor of the Companion to Eighteenth-Century Architecture (Wiley- Blackwell, 2017).