*Le Corbusier (Jeanneret, Charles Edouard)

Le Corbusier - Chandigarh

Le Corbusier - Chandigarh



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Le Corbusier

was born Charles Edouard Jeannerct on October 6, 1887, in LaChaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland. Le Corbusier was the second son of Edouard Jeanneret, a dial painter in the town’s renowned watch industry, and Madame Jeannerct-Perrct, a musician and piano teacher.

The family proudly traced its ancestry to the Cathars, who fled to the Jura Mountains during the Albigensian Wars of the twelfth century, and the French Huguenots, who migrated to Switzerland following the Edict of Nantes (1598). La Chaux-de-Fonds’ tradition of offering refuge includes both Rousseau and Bakunin. His family’s Calvinism, love of the arts, and enthusiasm for the Jura Mountains, were all formative influences on the young Le Corbusier; Charles L’Eplattenier, a teacher at the local art school, dominated his education.
L’Eplattenier, whom Le Corbusier called “My Master,” combined into a National Romanticism many strains of late-nineteenth-century thought, from Ruskin to Hermann Muthesius. He involved his students in his search for a new kind of ornament expressive of the Jura landscape and able to sustain the local craft industry. Apprenticed at thirteen to a watch engraver, Le Corbusier abandoned matchmaking in part because of his delicate eyesight, and continued his studies in art and decoration, with the intention of becoming a painter. L’Eplattenier insisted that the young man also study architecture and arranged for his first commissions.
After completing his first house, Villa Pallet, in 1907, Le Corbusier set out on a series of travels that lasted until 1912, when Le Corbusier returned to La Chaux-de-Fonds to teach beside L’Eplattenier and to begin his own practice. These travels took him first to Italy, then to Vienna, Munich, and Paris. They included a period of apprenticeship to architects with philosophies at odds with L’Eplattenier’s teachings,most significantly the structural rationalism of Auguste Perret, a father of reinforced concrete construction, and the Werkbund perspective of Peter Behrens. They concluded with a “Journey to the East” by way of the Balkans and Eastern Europe, culminating in a visit to the Acropolis.
Back in Switzerland, Le Corbusier designed a series of villas and embarked on a more theoretical study for a structural frame of reinforced concrete Le Corbusier called the Maison Dom-ino (a pun on the Latin word for house, domus, and on the playing pieces from the game). Le Corbusier envisaged it as an affordable, prefabricated system for the construction of new housing in the wake of World War I’s destruction. Developed with the help of Max Dubois and Perret, the system differed from the then standard Hennibique frame in its idealization of floors as flat slabs without exposed beams. Its columns were perfectly straight posts without capitals, set in from the edge of the slab. This system freed both exterior and interior walls from all structural constraints.
At the end of the war Le Corbusier moved to Paris. There Le Corbusier worked on concrete structures under government contracts and ran a small brick manufacture, but Le Corbusier dedicated most of his efforts to the more influential, and lucrative, discipline of painting. First in a book entitled Apres le cubisme, and subsequently in an art show at Galerie Thomas, Le Corbusier and Am�ede� Ozenfant began a movement called Purism, which called for the restoration of the integrity of the object in art. As their style developed, it drew closer to Synthetic Cubism’s structure of overlapping planes, but retained a distinct attitude toward the mass-produced “tools” of industrial culture, from laboratory flasks to cafe chairs, which they called objets-types.
The emerging spirit of industrialized culture in all its aspects became the theme of the journal I’Esprit Nouveau, founded in 1919 by Le Corbusier, Ozenfant, and the poet Paul Dermee, and published until 1925. Le Corbusier collected essays from the journal in the book Vers une architecture. In the essays Le Corbusier proposed an architecture that would satisfy both the demands of industry and the timeless concerns of architectural form as defined in antiquity. His proposals included his first city plan, the Contemporary City. Le Corbusier also proposed two housing types, which were the basis for much of his architecture throughout his life: the vaulted Maison Monol and the Maison Citrohan, a “shoebox” volume with a double-height salon (the salon was modeled on, among other sources, the bistro Legendre, rue Godot-de-Mauroy, where the architect lunched daily).
In order to distinguish their work as painters from their work as critics and theorists, Ozenfant and Jeanneret took pseudonyms. Ozenfant adopted his mother’s family name, Saugnier. Jean-neret took the name of a cousin, Lecor-bezier. Separating the Le out, the name sounded suitably like an objet-type; it also suggested the architect’s profile, which resembled a crow’s (corbeau). Le Corbusier ‘s self-invention continued with the encouragement of the elder, more self-assured Ozenfant. Adopting a costume of bow-tie, starched collar, and bowler hat, and a rhetorical literary style combining discipline, enthusiasm, ironic wit, and moral outrage, Le Corbusier became what he considered to be the perfect standard for the times.
Ozenfant and Le Corbusier parted in 1924, with much acrimony over who deserved credit for their joint efforts. In 1922, Le Corbusier formed an architectural partnership with his cousin Pierre Jeanneret; Jeanneret was to play the quieter role, developing plans and details and dealing with clients. They set up an office in the corridor of a former Jesuit monastery at 35, rue de Sevres. It remained Le Corbusier ‘s office for the rest of his life.
During the 1920s Le Corbusier realized his first mature architecture in a series of villas for artists, their patrons, and a few industrialists. The absence of a state program for public housing in France contributed to Le Corbusier ‘s inability to realize his ideas on a larger scale and for a more varied clientele. The one exception was a complex of workers* housing in Pessac, built for an industrialist. For the 1927 Deutsches Werkbund exhibition in Stuttgart, Le Corbusier built the Citrohan prototype in a rather pure form. In a booklet for the exhibition Le Corbusier codified his principles as (he Five Points of Modem Architecture, derived from the potentials of the concrete frame. They are the roof garden on top of the house, the consequence of a flat roof; the pilotis, or columns, that raise the house above the ground; the free plan, unencumbered by structural partitions ; the similarly free facade; and the strip (continuous, horizontal) windows, which provide maximum illumination to the house. Eventually, Le Corbusier categorized the spatial organizations derived from these points as the Four ompositions, illustrating each one with a house built during the 1920s.
By the end of the decade, Le Corbusier and Jeanneret had achieved a status and skill that seemed about to earn them their first public commission: the League of Nations (1927). Their eventual elimination (ostensibly for the illegal use of China ink) after winning numerous rounds of the competition was seen as the triumph in the architectural world of academicism over the modem. It instigated the formation of CIAM (Congres Intemationaux d’Architecture Modeme), whose charter members included S. Giedion, W. Gropius, and Le Corbusier, and whose principal areas of concern were architecture’s relation to economic and political spheres. Their 1933 meeting on a boat headed to the Acropolis produced the Athens Charter, a document on urbanism published by Le Corbusier in 1943; it served as bible for much city planning in the following two decades. Eventually, Le Corbusier and Jeanneret did obtain two large public commissions: the Soviet Centrosoyus (begun in 1929) and the Cite de Refuge for the Salvation Army(1930).
Even as Le Corbusier completed the ultimate purist house. Villa Savoye (1931), and implemented his first glass curtain walls at the Centrosoyus and Cit� de Refuge, a shift in the direction of his work and life became apparent. The female figure and other natural forms emerged in his painting as objects “a reaction poetique” (objects of poetic reaction) to be distinguished from the objets-types of his earlier compositions. Natural materials in a rough state appeared in his rural dwellings, then, coupled with more sophisticated technology, in his urban works, such as the Pavilion Suisse (1932).

This revived interest in the natural, from a new perspective. was a consequence of his experience with the real limits of modem construction technology and also of a set of inspiring travels to tropical landscapes: Brazil (1928) and Algiers (1929). His nights with Antoine de Saint-Exupery over the coast of Rio instigated a series of plans for sinuous viaduct cities. Similarly, his journey to the Soviet Union was in part responsible for the revision of his first Contemporary City as the Radiant City (1931).Besides this second bout of travel, the event most significant to Le Col-busier’s life in this period was his marriage in 1930 to Yvonne Gallis, a model and couturier from Monaco. Le Corbusier subsequently adopted French citizenship.
With the worsening economic situation throughout Europe and the strenuous opposition to his ideas evident in some circles, Le Corbusier failed to secure any further large commissions and turned increasingly to urban planning and writing. Le Corbusier produced plans for almost every city in which Le Corbusier lectured or built: Geneva, Antwerp, and Stockholm in 1933, Hellocourt, Zlin, and Paris in 1935. This ongoing investigation of urban form produced plans for a “linear city.” In 1935. at the invitation of the Museum of Modem Art, Le Corbusier traveled to the United States for the first time. America, especially New York City, aroused both his enthusiasm and his disgust. There the skyscraper existed, but without the guidance of a plan, thus, without satisfying the “fundamental needs of the human heart.”
Many of Le Corbusier ‘s writings of the period stemmed from his involvement with the Syndicalists, a politically ambiguous group who held that the means of production should be owned and managed by independent groups of workers (syndicats). Le Corbusier became an active contributor to the syndicalist journals Plan and Prelude. Through the membership of its editorial board. Prelude had a connection to the Italian fascist movement. Le Corbusier ‘s own connection with Italian fascism was fleeting, lasting only as long as Mussolini was interested in his ideas of the Radiant City.
Despite his varying fortune, in the thirties Le Corbusier established a fulfilling pattern of life and work. Mornings Le Corbusier would paint in his studio at Porte Molitor. His wife, a gourmet cook, would prepare lunch for them. Afternoons Le Corbusier would spend in his office on rue de Sevres, working with tits young, international employees on architectural projects. At least one evening a week, Le Corbusier and Jeanneret would join a fierce game of basketball in the dance studio/gym of his brother Albert. Periodically Le Corbusier vacationed on the Mediterranean, near Cap Martin, where Le Corbusier would take olympian swims.
With the onset of World War II, Le Corbusier left with Jeanneret for Ozon, in the Pyrenees. Their partnership ended in 1940, when Jeanneret left for Switzerland and joined the Resistance, while Le Corbusier approached his Syndicalist friends in power at Vichy in hopes of finding there an authority to implement his ideas for reconstruction. For eighteen months Le Corbusier attempted to make his way in Vichy circles, first as part of a commission to study housing, and then as an increasingly annoying advocate of his own plan for Algiers. Le Corbusier left Vichy in 1943, after Algerian authorities had denounced him as a Bolshevik.
After Liberation, Le Corbusier was able to take part in the reconstruction of France. Under the auspices of the Ministry of Reconstruction, Le Corbusier began plans for the port of Marseille, which culminated in the construction of his first Unite d’habitation. Le Corbusier prepared plans for the towns of St-Die and La Rochelle. Le Corbusier was selected as French delegate to the architectural commission of the United Nations. For a moment it seemed that many years of somewhat self-imposed martyrdom had borne fruit. Le Corbusier told an interviewer in New York, “For thirty years Fd been a consultant talking in a desert. Since 1945, I’ve led the architectural movement in France. I have arrived at a stage where things in my life flower, like a tree in season.”
By 1950, this moment had passed; no city had accepted his plans. The U.N. disappointed him by making Wallace Harrison chief architect in the execution of a design Le Corbusier considered his own. The United States delegation to UNESCO refused to accept him on the design team. Despite this litany of official rejection and the bitterness it engendered, Le Corbusier entered on a productive period marked by the emergence of a well-defined aesthetic based on the plastic use of exposed concrete. Projects for several Unites, the chapel at Ronchamp (1954), the convent at LaTourette (1957), and the city plan and state architecture for Chandigarh, India, filled the decade.
Le Corbusier brought to bear on the Unite and all his subsequent architecture the research Le Corbusier had conducted during the war on the Modulor, a rule of proportion that applies the geometric properties of quadrature and the Golden Section to the measure of the human body. Le Corbusier had previously used these geometric properties, in the spirit of Auguste Choisy, as traces r�gulcueurs (regulating lines) for proportioning designs. Now Le Corbusier developed a system of measure in relation to man. Through the ladder of Golden Sections called the Fibonacci Series, Le Corbusier extended his intial Modulor to infinitely large and small dimensions. Le Corbusier asserted both its aesthetic value and utility as a standardized scale. Le Corbusier understood the Modulor as part of a great tradition extending back to Renaissance anthropometries, to Vitruvius and Pythagoras.
In his “Poem to the Right Angle” (1947-1953). Le Corbusier engaged in another exploration of man’s relation to the cosmos, one belonging less to the rational humanist tradition of the Modulor and more to a personal spiritualism rooted in his attachment to nature and, perhaps, to the dualistic conceptions of spirit and matter from his Catharist heritage. The poem’s images, such as the open hand and the bull, appear in the form of emblemata painted or engraved on his late buildings and in his dramatic use of natural elements, such as light, shadow, and water.
Toward the end of the 1950s, Le Corbusier withdrew more from social life and spent increasing periods of time at his cabin in Cap Martin. His wife had died in 1957, a blow from which some say Le Corbusier never totally recovered. Despite this partial retirement, Le Corbusier had as many architectural commissions as ever. Although these late works do not fall easily into a single category, many retreat from the primitivism of his Indian architecture toward a refined handling of materials, including steel; in them Le Corbusier reexamined his earlier vocabulary. Le Corbusier was at work on a project that promised to be of major significance in terms of his own development, the Venice Hospital, when, in 1965, Le Corbusier died of a heart attack while swimming in the Mediterranean.

LeCorbusier and the Radiant City Contra
True Urbanity and the Earth

Rachel Kennedy


The city of the late nineteenth, early twentieth century was in a process of transformation. Industrialization, which had destroyed the traditional craft works and made small-scale farming unprofitable, brought workers into urban areas at explosive rates. At the same time, the automobile assailed historic street patterns, causing the equivalent of gridlock and a dangerous situation for pedestrians. In sum, industrial capitalism was destroying the historic city as well. Urban theorist have been grappling, since that time, with how to reinvent the city in ways that will benefit humankind and nature. Le Corbusier, born Charles Edoard Jeanneret, was such a theorist. He pursued a vision of the good society for over forty years. In this essay, I will illuminate Corbusier’s thought using the model of the Radiant City (1930-1935). I will show how his utopian perspective is egregiously flawed and how this vision has been harmful for the practice of city planning in our life-world. I will also comment on the alternative vision offered by the sustainable city of Yanarella and Levine.

His Life:
Le Corbusier was born in 1887 in the Swiss watchmaking town of La Chaux de Fonds. His father was a highly skilled watch enameler; his mother was a pianist and music teacher. The family was Protestant; some scholars believe they were Calvinists (Sereyni 1975: 23). At the age of fifteen, Corbusier enrolled at the local trade school, L’Ecole d’Art, in order to learn the craft of watch case engraving. Corbusier’s mentor at the school was Charles L’Eplattenier. L’Eplattenier’s personal mission at L’Ecole was to find the most promising students alternate careers in the fine arts. He knew that eventually the craft works at La Chaux de Fonds would be replicated by machine at a cheaper price, thus destroying the local economy.
L’Eplattenier saw promise in the young Corbusier. In fact, he decreed that the young man should become an architect. Corbusier was at first ambivalent, preferring a career as a painter, but later he came to embrace the architecture profession. Under L’Eplattenier’s tutelage, Corbusier was exposed to William Morris, John Ruskin, Plato and Pythagorus. Other early influences were Edward Schure’s Les Grand Inities and Owen Jones’s Grammar of Ornament. Plato, Schure, and Jones, appear to be the most influential on Corbusier’s developing worldview. From Plato, Corbusier extracted the seemingly universal ideas of Beauty, Truth, and Harmony. The forms were out there, i.e. not of this world; one only had to get beneath everyday and one’s own body. Intrinsic to neo-Platonist philosophy was the notion that only a few worthy “inities,” as Schure called them, could ever know their universal forms. Artistically, neo-Platonism meant a rejection of realist representations and a concentration on getting at the true nature of an object. It also implied an antagonism toward ornament of any kind. The true forms were geometric, stylized shapes and figures.
Corbusier came to reject much of his teacher’s theories on the revival of traditional arts and crafts. Instead, he developed ideas about the inevitability of capitalist rationality and the aesthetic of the machine. In fact, he began to hold the spirit of capitalism, in the form of technocratic calculations and bureaucratic order, in the highest esteem. This change appears to have been inculcated in tandem with the Bauhaus School in Vienna and his association with Auguste Perret, a Parisian Engineer. Under Perret’s guidance, Corbusier learned the aesthetics of functionalism (the beauty of a carefully calculated structure sans ornament) and the positivism of the modern age. Perret was so optimistic about the new age of progress, he proclaimed, “Wars are over! There are no more frontiers!” (Fishman 1982: 170) after a successful airplane flight across the English Channel.

Corbusier and Modernity:
Corbusier shared Perret’s confidence and enthusiasm for the modern age. He envisaged a new and unique role for the artist/architect and the city planner that closely adhered to the capitalist spirit. Put simply, Corbusier’s initial encounter with the large complex city of Paris convinced him of the need for modern housing and a modern city. Partly, this was a response to what he called the chaos around him – the enormous amount of traffic and the squalor of the industrial workers’ housing. He compared this disorder to the discipline and authority of the factory and found the city lacking. Corbusier believed that the only way to impede a worker revolution was to formulate a machine for living, a dwelling that would bring the worker’s home life in line with the discipline of the factory. To this end, he created the Dom-ino housing concept, which was a rectangular structure with only four load bearing reinforced concrete members. The walls, then, could be opened up to sunlight via wrap around glass windows. The housing was purported, by Corbusier, to be a cheap, efficient way to house workers that would provide a modern ethos.
It was not just that Corbusier believed in the uplift theory of architecture, i.e., the assumption that “improved” housing would lift workers out of their culture of poverty. He also subscribed to the theory of architecture as control and discipline. Stuart Ewen, in his book All Consuming Images, notes that many modern thinkers presumed a correlation between the masses’ behavior and architectural structures. He quotes Charlotte Bronte, famous novelist, on the Crystal Palace, “Yesterday I went for the second time to the Crystal Palace … the multitude filling the great aisles seems ruled and subdued by some invisible influence …” (Ewen 1988, 164). Corbusier was very interested in exploiting the “invisible influence” of architecture in the modern age: “The problem of the house is a problem of the epoch. The equilibrium of society to-day depends upon it. Architecture has for its first duty, in this period of renewal, that of bringing about a revision of values, a revision of the constituent elements of the house. We must create the mass production spirit” (Le Corbusier 1986: 227). Later, he tersely states. “Architecture or Revolution. Revolution can be avoided” (Le Corbusier 1986: 289). To this end, Corbusier rationalized the house.
The historic city, then, was seen as fomenting revolution. The old “decrepit” structures from the past had to be cleared away, according to Corbusier, if the modern age was to fulfill its true duty – unlimited production of human needs and wants (progress as promised). Corbusier’s first attempt at city planning came in the form of the Contemporary City Plan for Three Million People, followed by the Voisin Plan, which was application of the Contemporary City to Paris. In these early theories, he attempted to illuminate how his plan would be beneficial to business sector of the city. This was before his disillusionment with capitalism. Without going into great detail, the Contemporary City was based upon clearance of most of the Parisian landscape (a few historic monuments were to be kept), and the erection of twenty four steel and glass skyscrapers that would house the business and artistic elite. The workers were placed at the edges of the city in modern apartment structures, based on the Domino, close to their workplace–the factory. Most of the land, around eighty-five percent, was left to natural landscapes and playgrounds.
Corbusier assumed that the plan would garner support from capitalists interested in arresting the workers’ movements and instituting a factory-like discipline onto the whole of society. No one took him up on it. With the depressions of the late 1920s and a tepid reception from the industrials, Corbusier lost his faith in capitalism as the ultimate bearer of progress, at least in this stage of its evolution: the plans were sound, the capitalists were too immature to realize their validity.
In 1930, Corbusier joined the syndicalist movement. Syndicalism had come to embrace, in France, an intense abhorrence of parliamentary democracy an appreciation of workers’ rights – elements of the extreme left and the extreme right. Democracy was seen as a chaotic, inefficient way of regulating capitalist production. A more harmonious and more disciplined authority was created, in theory, based upon syndicats. Syndicats were groups of workers in a particular trade that elected their “natural” leader to a regional trade council. From the regional council, the most able individual was chosen to represent the regionals at the national council. The pyramid like conception reached an apex with the “natural” elites making dispassionate, scientific plans on how and what the factories should produce. For Corbusier, this meant that capitalism would have a plan and thus, would be ordered and harmonious. No longer would factories be able to overproduce and create depression; it would all be regulated from above by les grand inities.

Corbusier’s Radiant City:
The Radiant City grew out of this new conception of capitalist authority and a pseudo-appreciation for workers’ individual freedoms. The plan had much in common with the Contemporary City – clearance of the historic cityscape and rebuilding utilizing modern methods of production. In the Radiant City, however, the pre-fabricated apartment houses, les unites, were at the center of “urban” life. Les unites were available to everyone (not just the elite) based upon the size and needs of each particular family. Sunlight and recirculating air were provided as part of the design. The scale of the apartment houses was fifty meters high, which would accommodate, according to Corbusier, 2,700 inhabitants with fourteen square meters of space per person. The building would be placed upon pilotus, five meters off the ground, so that more land could be given over to nature. Setback from other unites would be achieved by les redents, patterns that Corbusier created to lessen the effect of uniformity.
Inside les unites were the vertical streets, i.e. the elevators, and the pedestrian interior streets that connected one building to another. As in the Contemporary City, corridor streets were destroyed. Automobile traffic was to circulate on pilotus supported roadways five meters above the earth. The entire ground was given as a “gift” to pedestrians, with pathways running in orthogonal and diagonal projections. Other transportation modes, like subways and trucks, had their own roadways separate from automobiles. The business center, which had engendered much elaboration in the Contemporary City, was positioned to the north of les unites and consisted of Cartesian (glass & steel) skyscrapers every 400 meters. The skyscrapers were to provide office space for 3,200 workers per building.

Corbusier spends a great deal of the Radiant City manifesto elaborating on services available to the residents. Each apartment block was equipped with a catering section in the basement, which would prepare daily meals (if wanted) for every family and would complete each families’ laundry chores. The time saved would enable the individual to think, write, or utilize the play and sports grounds which covered much of the city’s land. Directly on top of the apartment houses were the roof top gardens and beaches, where residents sun themselves in Anatural” surroundings – fifty meters in the air. Children were to be dropped off at les unites’ day care center and raised by scientifically trained professionals. The workday, so as to avoid the crisis of overproduction, was lowered to five hours a day. Women were enjoined to stay at home and perform household chores, if necessary, for five hours daily. Transportation systems were also formulated to save the individual time. Corbusier bitterly reproaches advocates of the horizontal garden city (suburbs) for the time wasted commuting to the city. Because of its compact and separated nature, transportation in the Radiant City was to move quickly and efficiently. Corbusier called it the vertical garden city.
Many scholars have adopted the notion that the Corbusier of the Radiant City was a kinder, gentler Corbusier. However, they have failed to consider that the so-called individual freedoms that Corbusier promoted were not freedoms at all. Certainly, Corbusier provided lesiure time activities that he enjoyed, such as sunbathing on the roof or playing basketball. But, are these pastimes necessarily freedom? Corbusier’s individuals were not allowed to have a voice in the governance of their lives; they are able to behave, but not to act. Additionally, there is no room in the Radiant City for individuals to act non-rationally. The lesiure time advocated by Corbusier is one filled with healthy “day minded” pursuits. There can be no extravagance or chaotic excess. The town lunatic would have to go the way of ninety-nine percent of the historic city. Indeed, it is improbable that ninety-nine percent of humanity will ever behave in so-called rational ways. Thus, Corbusier’s vision suffers from an naive conception of human nature.
But, this is not the main problem with his thesis for the Radiant City. Quite simply, his notion of authority is both patriarchal and bureaucratic, what Richard Sennett refers to as the authority of false love and the authority of no love (Sennett 1980). Corbusier maintained, following Plato and Schure, that universal truth, beauty, and goodness could be ascertained by those who had divorced themselves from matter (human bodies). Les grand inities could then prescribe a plan grounded in objective calculations and scientific facts. There could be no debate, i.e. no politics regarding the precepts of the plan. Humanity was to accept this discipline as a necessary, objective ordering of reality by a doting, paternalistic authority. Corbusier put it like this, “Authority must step in, patriarchal authority, the authority of a father concerned for his children,” (Le Corbusier 1967: 152).

LeCorbusier—A Critique:
Of course, Corbusier saw himself as the fatherly redeemer of humankind. He was le grand inities who could step outside of history and uncover the good society. He was the good Calvinist who would make the world over for the glory of rationalism. Obviously, the flux of history, the uncertainty of being was too much for him. Thus, he prescribed a plan that eschewed embodiment, cleared away history, and established orthogonal order. This is the essence of utopian thought, the reliance on scientific fact and removal of memory. The other, be it female or a worker, is disorder and must be brought into line. Implicitly, it is a fear of this world, a Cartesian desire to escape this mortal coil.
Corbusier’s designs for the city are grounded in the desire to escape the earth. The vertical street, the skyscraper, the death of the street, the destruction of the sensuality of city life are all proof positive that he was terrified of the earth and others. In the Contemporary City, Corbusier describes the view from the skyscraper as not of this earth; it is placid, serene, and harmonious.
The Sustainable City, as put forth by Ernest Yanarella and Dick Levine, is specifically non-utopian. The authority of this city is one of embodiment in a place and space. Knowledge does not exist outside time and space; it is instead, grounded in both. It is an authority of political education, where the knower and the known become one. Diversity is respected, since the known becomes, as Kathleen Jones puts it, “at home in this world,” (Jones 1993, 243). The Sustainable City Program does not fetishize nature as redeemer and object of gratification. Le Corbusier sees nature as fulfilling unlimited human needs and wants. Nature becomes “other” in his plans. A sustainable city would take humankind out of the center of being and replace him/her with the notion of inter-connectedness: the deep ties that weave our lives together with the natural world. Nature is respected for its balance seeking process and its limits.
To conclude, it is hard to say whether Corbusier’s urban thought has had a direct effect on city planners. It appears, however, that some of his notions have made their way into urban renewal logic: clearance, the destruction of memory, the plan as scientific fact, sub-standard housing, etc. Certainly, his aseptic view of the city has destroyed the street theater that Jane Jacobs so lovingly describes. The landscape of Corbusier, regardless of its evocation of nature, is unsensual, ahistorical–not of this world. Sustainable cities offer a better worldview, one that connects humans, nature, history, and place with a viable vision for the future.

Curtis, William J.R. 1986. Le Corbusier: Ideas and Forms. New York: Rizzoli International Publications.
Ewen, Stuart. 1988. All Consuming Images: The Politics of Style in Contemporary Culture. New York: Basic Books.
Fishman, Robert. 1977. Urban Utopias in the Twentieth Century. Cambridge, Mass: The MIT Press.
Jones, Kathleen B. 1993. Compassionate Authority: Democracy and the Representation of Women. New York: Routledge Press.
Le Corbusier. 1971. The City of Tomorow And Its Planning. Trans. by Frederick Etchells. Cambridge Mass: The MIT Press.
Le Corbusier. 1967. The Radiant City. Trans. by Pamela Knight, Eleanor Levieux, and Derek Coltman. New York: The Orion Press.
Sennett, Richard. 1980. Authority. New York: W.W. Norton and Company.
Serenyi, Peter, ed. 1975. Le Corbusier in Perspective. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall Publishers.

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