The meaning of molluscs: Leonce Reynaud and the Cuvier-Geoffroy Debate of 1830, Paris
In Paris, in 1830, a fierce debate broke out in the Academie Royale des Sciences between zoologists Georges Cuvier and Etienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire over the anatomy of molluscs. At the same time, a heated controversy arose in the Academie des Beaux-Arts between Quatremere de Quincy and Henri Labrouste over the morphology of built form. Among Labrouste's supporters was architect Leonce Reynaud who, along with his brother Jean Reynaud, a prominent editor and philosopher, also supported Geoffroy's side in the debate. These men saw the slow growth of the mollusc as a metaphor for human history, and they viewed its malleable body as a model for social reform. The architectural challenge was to accept the lower classes as the very future of urban society. In Paris, even as the July Revolution of 1830 raised the political stakes once again, this was the meaning of molluscs.
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