09 December 2012

Modernist Moment

"Les styles sont un mensonge. Le style c'est une unite de principe qui anime les oeuvrer d'une epoch et qui resulte d'un etat desprit characterize. Notre epoch fixe chaque jour son style. Nos yeux, malheureusment, ne savant pas le discerner encore."

Le Corbusier, "Vers Une Architecture", 1923


Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, Corbusier's sentiments have been mis-used to deface cities and destroy historic buildings for over 60 years. If you want to see something truly chilling, look up his plans for making Paris "better."

Rafa said...


Young Fogey said...


Misused? No, I think not. The destruction of historic buildings, and the creation of sterile, dehumanizing blocs, was the point.

Yeah, sure, a lot of his stuff looks great on paper, and is visually striking. But in terms of functional architecture, it's an abject failure.

IMHO, of course.

Having said that, he sure knew how to dress!

Giuseppe said...

Don't forget that much of what he was reacting to was an abject failure in its own way. He's also designing for a Europe that had been ravaged by two wars in a quarter century. The desire for newness, a break from the past, and a more democratic form of design is understandable in light of this.

The "Ville Radieuse" (his shocking plan for Paris) is a bit much, but there is real beuty in his smaller works. I am fortunate to live in Massachusetts, in close proximity to the Walter Gropius house, a nearby house by Marcel Breuer, the Kresge Auditorium by Saarinen, Alvar Aalto's dorm bloc for MIT, and Le Corb's own Carpenter Center at Harvard.

I can understand having a strong reaction to this stuff, even a negative one, and it's too easy to dismiss it all out of hand as so much cold concrete. After experiencing so many great examples of this generation of modernism first hand, I can tell you honestly its not so simple.

Giuseppe said...

And, yeah, nothing wrong with heavy double breasted suits, bow ties, and the kind of glasses that are by now an architectural cliche in their own right.

Horatio said...

I see your point, G. The problem, of course, is summed up in a quote from your people:

Chine canciari ‘a via vecchia pe la via nova sa chillu chi lassari ma un sa chillu chi trova.

"He who leaves the old ways for the new, knows what he left behind but not what he is to find."

I understand the desire to create something new, but "new" is not, as you well know, synonymous with "better." Drawing a parallel from biology, most mutations are deleterious. Many social changes are, too.

This is not a blanket condemnation of all 20th century architecture; I like the clean lines of Streamline Moderne, which has a certain humanity lacking in Brutalism and other modern monstrosities. But many modern buildings are soulless hulks that sap the life out of those forced to use them.

Anonymous said...

This has really been a fascinating discussion! I was unfamiliar with Le Corbusier's work until 'An Affordable Wardrobe' spurred these postings. Since then I've been doing research on the topic. G and H have certainly made some excellent points. Thanks for all the information. Highly educational and enjoyable!