Designing UNESCO: Art, Architecture and International Politics at Mid-Century represents the first full-length monograph on the genesis, construction and reception of the Paris headquarters of the United Nations' Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The book traces the long and complex birth of UNESCO's permanent seat from its conception in 1950 to its inauguration in 1958, showing how its history constitutes a unique nexus of modernist practices in twentieth-century international politics, art, architecture and criticism. Drawing on a wide range of unpublished archival material and examining critical reception of the building in the local and international press, Christopher Pearson's analysis operates on formal, structural and theoretical levels, revealing many of the largely unspoken assumptions of modern architecture at mid-century and elucidating the conflicted relation between art and science in the post-war period. The volume also throws new light on many of the major architects and artists of the period, among them Breuer, Gropius, Le Corbusier and Eero Saarinen, as well as Picasso, Moore, MirÃ³, Arp, Calder and Noguchi. Designing UNESCO is a compelling and original account of one of the most important, yet under-appreciated, buildings of twentieth-century modernism.
'A major contribution to the study of modernist art and architecture of the mid-20th century…an original, comprehensive and well-written account of an important subject on which it is certain to become the standard text.' Sophie Bowness, independent scholar
'In this fascinating, detailed narrative, the Canadian architectural historian Christopher E. M. Pearson has turned what might have been a plodding account of a now obscure building into an enthralling cultural history.' The Art Newspaper
Contents: Foreword; The dialectics of modernism: UNESCO as form and symbol; Reconstruction and synthesis: the institutional and intellectual origins of UNESCO; 'Synthesis of the major arts': Le Corbusier in Paris and at the United Nations; UNESCO headquarters: the first project, 1952; UNESCO headquarters: the Porte Maillot project, 1952; UNESCO headquarters: the final project, 1953; UNESCO headquarters: construction 1953-58; The art advisers; Sun, moon, constellation and reclining figure: the art of UNESCO; Conclusions; Appendix: the later history of UNESCO headquarters; Bibliography; Index.