Emeritus Regents’ Professor of Architecture Christopher Mead has received the 2015 Alice Davis Hitchcock Book Award for Making Modern Paris: Victor Baltard’s Central Markets and the Urban Practice of Architecture.
This award is given by the Society of Architectural Historians “to recognize annually the most distinguished work of scholarship in the history of architecture by a North American scholar.”
Mead said, “Writing a scholarly monograph can sometimes feel like a lonely pursuit, of relevance only to a small group of like-minded experts. So I am very honored that the Society of Architectural Historians has granted me the Alice Davis Hitchcock Book Award. The Society is an international organization, with a professional membership of historians, architects and preservationists who represent every continent in the world.
"This award not only confirms the intrinsic merits of Making Modern Paris, but more importantly, recognizes its general relevance to anyone who is interested in studying and understanding how we shape the built environment.”
In making the determination to award Mead's book, reviewers wrote, "Christopher Mead's Making Modern Paris is an outstanding work of scholarship that questions the prevailing views on Victor Baltard, architect of Paris's famous, but now-defunct Les Halles, or the Central Markets.
Canonical accounts of modern architecture, such as Sigfried Giedion's Space, Time and Architecture, present Baltard as an architect of rather modest caliber, hardly comparable to his slightly older contemporary Henri Lebrouste. Founded on meticulous research, Making Modern Paris, repositions Baltard's career as mediating between the dictates of Beaux-Arts classicism, functional flexibility, and new building technologies, as well as construction materials.
Mead argues convincingly that Baltard's markets belonged to a building typology that negotiated its complex urban context, generating a great deal of activity around it and serving as key force in the formation of the Halles quarter. Significantly, Mead's critical reading of Baltard's work casts much new light on a widely studied period of Paris, well-documented and scrutinized by scholars from multiple perspectives.
Through Baltard's work, Mead engages in an interdisciplinary inquiry, which brings together architectural and urban history, theories of space, social history, literature and history of photography."