In Memoriam: Jean-Louis Cohen

Portrait of Jean-Louis Cohen by Getty Darugar, Paris, 2009. Photo source: Mandanarch, Wikimedia Commons

Prominent architectural historian Jean-Louis Cohen passed away unexpectedly on August 7, 2023.

Born on July 20, 1949, Cohen was a French architect and architectural historian who specialized in modern architecture and city planning.

“Cohen played a crucial role in raising awareness of the conservation challenges facing modernist buildings around the world and the innovative work being done to preserve them,” reads the World Monuments Fund’s website.

“An architect and architectural historian, Cohen contributed greatly to our understanding of modernism and twentieth-century urbanism and was widely considered one of the leading authorities on Le Corbusier. The creative force behind La Cité de l’Architecture et du Patrimoine in Paris, Cohen curated exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art, Pompidou Center, and the 14th Venice Architecture Biennale.”

Cohen was the Sheldon H. Solow Professor in the History of Architecture at New York University’s Institute of Fine Arts since 1994. A tribute to Cohen by the Institute of Fine Arts, states, “Jean-Louis was an astonishingly prolific scholar, with over 50 books to his name, many of which are defining monographs in the field. He was a beloved colleague, teacher, and mentor, devoted to his students and to pedagogy. His accomplishments were recognized with numerous distinctions, including the appointment as Chevalier of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Ministry of Culture.”

In Canada, Cohen curated the 1995 Canadian Centre for Architecture exhibition Scenes of the World to Come: European Architecture and the American Challenge, 1893-1950, the 2011 exhibition Architecture in Uniform: Designing and Building for the Second World War, and the 2020 exhibition Building a new New World: Amerikanizm in Russian Architecture. He also authored accompanying publications for these exhibitions.

“Jean-Louis Cohen was an incredible teacher and scholar,” says Canadian Architect editor Elsa Lam, who studied with Cohen in New York City in the early 2000s. “His seminars were masterclasses, where students sprinted to keep up with Cohen’s prodigious rate of reading and thinking related to his latest research projects. Beyond his prolific writing, Cohen leaves a legacy of generations of students and collaborators whose abilities grew and flourished under his mentorship.”