Le Corbusier | The artist | The Architect
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The architect

Faire une archi­tec­ture, c’est faire une créa­ture”, wrote Le Cor­bu­sier in 1955 in his Litho­gra­phy Port­fo­lio “Le poème de l’angle droit” – to build meant to create a living being, to lend phy­si­ca­lity to a struc­ture and in this way to rise above the purely func­tio­nal. With this stance, LC aimed for “the hig­hest value in life: the poe­tic.” In doing so, the archi­tect Le Cor­bu­sier depen­ded upon the artist Le Cor­bu­sier: the latter’s per­sis­tent prac­tice of art for its own sake, the daily struggle at the stu­dio to find form, pro­por­tion, and har­mony help the archi­tect in his search for aes­t­he­tic expres­sion.

 

Alre­ady at the very begin­ning of his career, at the start of the 1920s, it was impos­si­ble for Le Cor­bu­sier to sepa­rate archi­tec­ture and pain­ting. For him, they were the two means of expres­sion based upon the divi­sion of space. The basic ques­tion of how to divide space – that of a house just as much as that of a city – was now what con­cer­ned him, at the brink of Moder­nism. He was aware of the new tech­ni­cal deve­lop­ments and eco­no­mic con­di­ti­ons that would emerge out of the era of the machine and mass pro­duc­tion, as well as the needs of the indi­vi­dual and the new pos­si­bi­li­ties in con­struc­tion that would arise the­re­from.

 

The con­clu­si­ons which Le Cor­bu­sier came to in his awa­ren­ess of these dra­ma­tic chan­ges pla­ced archi­tec­ture on a new foun­da­tion: dis­car­ding the past, he repla­ced it with ans­wers to ques­ti­ons that had never once been asked in such radi­cal cohe­rence. “A house is a machine in which to live,” he wrote in 1921 – and meant no less than that a house had to be strictly plan­ned accord­ing to a scale of human needs, clearly par­ti­tio­ned, func­tio­nal, offe­ring refuge to the indi­vi­dual.

 

But by the end of the 1920s, his purism and stri­ving for the opti­mum use of all pos­si­ble resour­ces no lon­ger satis­fied him. In oppo­si­tion to the zeit­geist, he began to accen­tuate the ten­sion bet­ween struc­tu­res ins­tead of high­light­ing their for­mal har­mony, giving them a mar­ked sculp­tu­ral form rather than stan­dar­di­zing them. From now on, orga­nic forms were an inte­gral part of his work, he com­po­sed and modu­la­ted, and as the poe­tic qua­lity gai­ned import­ance, he bre­a­thed life into Moder­nism.

 

So the legacy of the archi­tect Le Cor­bu­sier lies first of all in his cohe­rence, which made him into the pro­pa­gan­dist for modern archi­tec­ture par excel­lence. Almost more cen­tral today, howe­ver, are both his par­ti­cu­lar way of thin­king a pro­ject and his social con­cerns, in respect to which he had a pionee­ring role in their for­mu­la­tion and imple­men­ta­tion. His objec­tive was not sim­ply “archi­tec­ture” or “art” – his objec­tive was life its­elf. And for this rea­son, Le Cor­bu­sier is, and will con­ti­nue to be, tho­roughly rele­vant.

 

T. Rabara

Le Corbusier

Le Cor­bu­sier in 1947 working on
the draft of the UN head­quar­ters.


© United Nati­ons Per­ma­nent
Head­quar­ters; FLC / 2016, Pro­Lit­te­ris, Zurich