It’s that time of the year again, course selection season. Every time this point of the semester rolls around I find myself yearning for reviews and recommendations to make the best of the credits I have left. Though you can’t really go wrong with the courses at The New School, it’s always nice when you find the class that’s exactly right for you. Of course it’s always nice when you happen to pick a random required class that’s exactly right for you; and that’s exactly what happened to me this semester with the course “Redefining Modernity“.
Redefining Modernity is an Art History elective (3000 level), taught by Rebecca Cavanaugh. The subject matter covers early late 19th and early 20th century french art and design, specifically Art Nouveau, Art Deco, and Modernism. One of the benefits of taking the class in Paris, is that so much of the city’s famous architecture and art works were made during that period, so it’s all easily accessible to see in person.
The majority of the classes are spent doing field research, ie. going out and seeing exhibitions, museums, and famous architectural spaces preserved from the era. Recently the city itself has done a great job participating in the class as many relevant exhibitions have opened this spring following the curriculum.
One really great exhibition that opened three weeks ago at l’Institut du Monde Arabe, called “Il Etait Une Fois l’Orient Express,” aka “Once upon a time on the Orient Express.” Set outside the Institute are five or six actual train cars with authentic Art Deco interiors. As you walk through the cars, you’re brought through the luxury bar, lounge, dining and sleeping cars that were once graced by socialites, artists, and royalty such as Josephine Baker, Agatha Christie, Pierre Loti, and the list goes on.
Another visit we made was equally as much of a dream, to Villa Savoye in the western suburb of Paris called Poissy. Villa Savoye is one of the most famous Modernist buildings of renowned Swiss Architect Le Corbusier, and was only a 30 minute RER train trip from school. As you can see from the photos the villa was designed around the 5 principles of architecture that Le Corbusier developed as his technique.
Beyond these specific visits, traces of the subject matter can be found everywhere around the city which takes the course to an entire new level. If you plan to study abroad at Parsons Paris in the spring, don’t forget to take “Redefining Modernity”, I promise you wont regret it.