Towards a New Architecture
The Villas of Le Corbusier: 1920–1930
Le Corbusier: Architect of the Century
Journey to the East
The Le Corbusier Guide
Le Corbusier: 5 Projects 26, 1987)
Le Corbusier: Une encyclopédie
Le Corbusier: The City of Refuge, Paris, 1929–1933
Pessac de Le Corbusier: 1927–1985, Etude socio-architecturale
Le Corbusier: Early Works by Charles-Edouard Jeanneret-Gris
Le Corbusier: La progettazione come mutamento
Le Corbusier: Pittore e scultore
Le Corbusier Secret: Dessins et collages de la collection Ahrenberg Lausanne
The Decorative Art of Today
L’Esprit Nouveau: Le Corbusier und die Industrie, 1920–1925
Stars fell on architecture during the 1880s, the decade when most of the central characters of the Modern movement were born. Their centenaries have occasioned an unbroken series of commemorative celebrations and critical reevaluations, but no other observances have approached the scale of those surrounding the hundredth anniversary of the most important Modernist architect of them all: Le Corbusier, born Charles-Edouard Jeanneret on October 7, 1887, in La-Chaux-de-Fonds in the Swiss Jura. The leading polemicist of the generation that sought to establish a rational aesthetic order out of the unprecedented technical advances of the Age of Industrialization, Le Corbusier defined the Modernist imperative in the most influential of his thirty-eight books, Vers une architecture (first published in 1923, translated into English in 1927 as Towards a New Architecture and available once again in a facsimile edition). His language recalls Eugène Viollet-le-Duc’s earlier assertion that new materials would give birth to a new age:
The history of Architecture unfolds itself slowly across the centuries as a modification of structure and ornament, but in the last fifty years steel and concrete have brought new conquests, which are the index of a greater capacity for construction, and of an architecture in which the old codes have been overturned. If we challenge the past, we shall learn that “styles” no longer exist for us, that a style belonging to our own period has come about; and there has been a Revolution.
The “purification” of architecture—moving it away from dependence on the eclectic historicism of the late nineteenth century and toward a structural and formal vocabulary based on the new engineering principles of that epoch—was Le Corbusier’s initial goal. At the same time he attempted to direct these principles toward human aims. He achieved his program with stunning swiftness and completeness during his so-called Heroic Period, the years between his permanent move to Paris in 1917 and his fundamental architectural redirection in the early Thirties.
His most famous works of that decade and a half of intense research, experimentation, and construction were the sixteen houses thoroughly documented in Tim Benton’s The Villas of Le Corbusier: 1920–1930. These were the “machines for living in” that became the basic source of imagery for modern domestic architecture for decades to come. (Indeed, some present-day architects, especially Richard Meier, continue to use the Corbusian repertoire of motifs and materials of the Heroic Period as their basic point of reference.)
Those villas of the Twenties (several of them built for expatriate Americans who knew Gertrude Stein; her brother Michael was a patron of one of the most important of Le Corbusier’s houses, the Villa Stein/de Monzie of 1926–1927 at Garches) were as startling as their designer’s philosophical writings. Even now, long after they have ceased to shock, they still manage to impress with their clarity of line, intensity of contrast, equilibrium of proportion, and above all their simplicity of means. Dispensing with traditional ornament, pattern, texture, and most color (even …
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