Whether you love, hate, or are indifferent to Charles-Édouard Jeanneret, better known as Le Corbuiser, you can’t understand 20th century architecture without him. In light of this statement it is surprising that few books have dealt extensively with the writings of an architect who chose to list his profession as “Homme de Lettres” (Man of Letters) on his French identity card. Upon reading M. Christine Boyer’s Le Corbusier, Homme de Lettres one immediately realizes how much more fitting this title is for the architectural giant. His prolific literary output included more than fifty books, hundreds of articles, and thousands of letters. It is hard to imagine how his fewer than 60 buildings would have manifested themselves without his written explorations. Writing taught him as much about himself, architecture and urban design as drawing and building. No other book takes this more seriously than Boyer’s recent tome.
There are many aspects to like about this book. I personally enjoyed learning not only what he wrote but what he read. Additionally, Boyer’s effort to assemble Jeanneret’s letter and journal writing in chronological order should not go unnoticed. Although physically heavy this book makes following Jeanneret’s struggles and transformations fairly easy. This would have been impossible without Boyer’s effort. The notes she includes on the debates over the dates of certain letters illustrate how difficult but important this process must have been. So for a fraction of the effort you can get a glimpse into the transformations of a mind that changed how the world views architecture. Despite being far from an expert on Le Corbusier I certainly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in modern architecture, the 20th century, travel, or urban design. It has it all.
Credits, further information and more photos after the break.
“…Le Corbusier, Homme de Lettres is the first in-depth study of Le Corbusier as a writer as well as an architect. Featuring more than two hundred archival images from Le Corbusier’s life and work, this groundbreaking book examines his many writing projects from 1907 to 1947, as well as his letters written to two mentors: Charles L’Eplattenier and William Ritter…”
“…In Le Corbusier, Homme de Lettres author M. Christine Boyer focuses on the development of his writing style as it morphed from romantic prose to aphorisms and telegraphic bulletins. For each of his books, Le Corbusier was meticulous about the design of the page layout, the form of the type, the impact of the ideas, and even the promotional material. As a man of letters, Le Corbusier expected to contribute to the cultural atmosphere of the twentieth century…”
“…Le Corbusier, Homme de Lettres shows for the first time how his voluminous output—books, diaries, letters, sketchbooks, travel notebooks, lecture transcriptions, exposition catalogs, journal articles—reflects not just a compulsion to write, but a passion for advancing his ideas about the relationship between architecture, urbanism, and society in a new machine age.”