Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Art History


Mona Hadler

Committee Members

Romy Golan

Marta Gutman

Kent Minturn

Subject Categories

Modern Art and Architecture


Spatial archetypes, France, Archaic, Cold War, Posthuman, Postwar Europe


This dissertation examines the prevalence of spatial archetypes as potent symbols that manifested in art, architecture, exhibition design, and urban planning in the aftermath of World War II and into the Cold War. Owing to the dual influence of structuralism and phenomenology in French intellectual culture, many examples discussed here were produced in France or made by artists who spent significant time there. These figures include Jacqueline de Jong, Paul Virilio, Claude Parent, André Bloc, and the Groupe de Recherche d’Art Visuel (GRAV), all of whom made projects evoking speculative realities that oscillated between utopian and dystopian.

Given their focus on the future and concomitant desires to fundamentally change their environments, the presence of labyrinths and caves in their work— as both spatial metaphors and physical forms— is all the more surprising. By marrying the archaic with the futuristic, these artists and architects sought to disrupt linear and progress-based historical narratives and work through anxieties surrounding new technologies and the looming threat of nuclear disaster. The works in this dissertation stage a collision between post-history and pre-history: the possibility of a barren, post-apocalyptic landscape, home to the last surviving humans, was often expressed through an imagined primordial landscape occupied by the first humans.