The Tower of Babel

Instructor: Tatiana Senkevitch

Myriad are the towers and skyscrapers that populate our urban and imaginary vistas. However, they all stand under the shadow of one archetypical edifice: The Tower of Babel, recounted in the Book of Genesis and corresponding to the great ziggurat built in Babylon in the 6th century BCE. It is this tower that finds its visual iterations from medieval cathedrals through Renaissance paintings and Enlightenment architectural utopias up to the contemporary metropolis on its globalized stage. The Tower of Babel embodies our perennial desire to match technical ingenuity with a symbolic, collective social form to reach the summit, the heavens, the sky. Yet the legendary narrative of the tower’s destruction and the dispersal of its peoples haunts the afterlife of the tower and its modern counterparts.

In this course, we will explore the myth of the Tower of Babel and its continuous influence on architecture, visual arts, and film from the Renaissance to the present. We will discuss the tower as an allegory of ascension, a symbol of social utopia, and an act of hubris; the problem of the compatibility of languages (including architectural languages); the religious and secular programs operating in the tower’s construction and reception; and the tower’s role in the visual regimes of different political settings. Our discussions will be informed by films; paintings; photography; architecture by the likes of Le Corbusier, Zaha Hadid, and Rem Koolhaas; and critical/theoretical readings spanning from Skyline by Hubert Damisch to “The Task of the Translator” by Walter Benjamin and “Des tours de Babel” by Jacques Derrida.

Maximum enrollment: 10


Saturday – Sunday, 10:00-17:00
9 – 10  March, 2024
1 weekend (12 hours)


75016, Paris

All PICT courses are held in person. Participants will be contacted by the course instructor with the relevant details (readings if any, exact address, etc.) via email during the week leading up to the course.

All PICT courses are exclusive for PICT Members. Become a member from 3 euros/month.


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