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Eugenics in the Garden: Transatlantic Architecture and the Crafting of Modernity
Robert Motherwell Book Award 2019
The winners of the 2019 Robert Motherwell Book Award are Cézanne’s Gravity (Yale University Press) by Carol Armstrong, and Eugenics in the Garden: Transatlantic Architecture and the Crafting of Modernity (University of Texas Press) by Fabiola López-Durán. The awards carry a $10,000 prize for each author.
Eugenics in the Garden (University of Texas Press) details how Latin American elites strove to modernize their cities at the turn of the twentieth century by eagerly adopting spurious eugenic theories. Based on Jean-Baptiste Lamarck’s theory of the “inheritance of acquired characteristics,” eugenics informed a utopian project that made race, gender, class, and the built environment the critical instruments of modernity and progress. Eugenics in the Garden reveals how fear of social degeneration spread from the realms of medical science to architecture and urban planning, and how physicians and architects on both sides of the Atlantic participated in a global strategy of social engineering, legitimized by the putative authority of science. This book convincingly demonstrates that the role of race was an important tool in the geopolitics of space and the ideology of progress. Particular attention is given to how the influential architect Le Corbusier espoused the ways in which architecture could be used to perfect — and “whiten” — mankind.
Fabiola López-Durán is Associate Professor of Art History, Modern and Contemporary Latin American Art and Architecture at Rice University. Her awards include predoctoral fellowships from the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, Dedalus Foundation, CLIR, Harvard Center for European Studies, Camargo Foundation, Samuel H. Kress Foundation and the Fulbright Program.