Le Corbusier meets Albert Einstein

  • 07 Sep 2011
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  • Architects Articles
Le Corbusier and Albert Einstein (1946)

Two of the brightest minds from the past century.

Back in 1946, Le Corbusier meet Albert Einstein at Princeton after traveling to New York to present at the United Nations his project for the UN Headquarters.

I had the pleasure of discussing the “Modulor” at some length with Professor Albert Einstein at Princeton. I was then passing through a period of great uncertainty and stress; I expressed myself badly, I explained the “Modulor” badly, I got bogged down in the morass of “cause and effect”… At one point, Einstein took a pencil and began to calculate. Stupidly, I interrupted him, the conversation turned to other things, the calculation remained unfinished. The friend who had brought me was in the depths of despair. In a letter written to me the same evening, Einstein had the kindness to say this of the “Modulor”: “It is a scale of proportions which makes the bad difficult and the good easy.” There are some who think this judgement is unscientific. For my part, I think it is extraordinarily clear-sighted. It is a gesture of friendship made by a great scientist towards us who are not scientists but soldiers on the field of battle. The scientist tells us: “This weapon shoots straight: in the matter of dimensioning, i.e. of proportions, it makes tour task more certain.”

- Le Corbusier, The Modulor (1954)

Via Awesome People Hanging Together.

Cite: Basulto, David. "Le Corbusier meets Albert Einstein" 07 Sep 2011. ArchDaily. Accessed 17 Sep 2014. <http://www.archdaily.com/?p=167240>


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    Corb was a brilliant architect, but a terrible urban designer…

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      Ornament is cost, it is like a makeup: if you take likely that construction can be ugly … The texture of the materials should be worked for more synesthesia and as decoration … not create expensive elements. I also believe that the constructive system should be mixed like Abalos and Herreros defend.

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    marc, dont be mislead. ornament is something very essential to architecture and ratio is so much overestimated in the west.
    i think modernism works better on a small scale, thats why i visit archdaily..

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      Dear God I hope you’ve never qualified as an Architect, and if so I pity you!

      Ornament is never essential, and least of all to the very REAL problems we face in the realm of architecture… that’s why it is called ornamentation.

      I’m not concerned about the stylistic preoccupations of the east versus the west.
      I live in South Africa, and instead I’m concerned about the very REAL problems we have here.. problems that require us as architects to be very clever about how we shape our built environment and preserve the natural.

      Here, and in the rest of the world we desperately need thinkers and innovators. What we definitely don’t need is silly decorators who can’t, and so instead just resort back to their predictable clichés!

      Lastly Peter, if you think that designing within a strict framework where every square inch of an object is so carefully considered to be perfectly functional and absolutely essential to the task for which it is created, can only produce something uninspired and aesthetically displeasing… don’t be mislead!

      Have a closer look at the Italian grand prix this weekend… then THINK for a moment… and then tell me that an F1 car is not beautiful!!!

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        To say ornament is not essential is to suggest ornament can be removed. Can I ask, to what extent can you remove ornament? I don’t mean to be facetious, but if beauty is in the eye of the beholder, surely ornament is too? Ornament is, after all, a subjective word. One man’s rubbish is another man’s treasure.

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    One should bare in mind that Corbusier, like most prominent historical figures, was not immune to embellishing his own history. If you ask me, Corbu’s narrative account of Einstein making some set of calculations, and calling him later to confirm the brilliance of the modular with a simple phrase that smacks of self serving rhetoric seems a bit suspect to say the least.

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    putting people in a boxy alienated space makes them sad and even ill. on the other hand beauty attracts everyone, in every sense, even the economy. its a real, serious problem. another part of the story is achieving greater density.. it has all been said by leon krier and chris alexander.

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    le corbusier was obvisiously an anti-semite. this meeting with einstein is for that reason somehow grotesque. i never understood why people like his cold, oversized, totalitarian “visions”.

    u know that le c wanted to erase big parts of paris, because he needed space to install his hundred of meters tall, wide and long urban structures?

    in my opinion a truly overrated madman. cheers.

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      “le corbusier was obvisiously an anti-semite” – Articulate please.
      “a truly overrated madman” – would you say the same about the pharaohs of ancient egypt? without these madmen we would have NOTHING to talk about here today…

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    Of course everyone has the right not to agree with Le Corbusier’s radical urban theories, even if you look at what he really realized, which is rather successful (see Marseilles for instance). But as an architect, he his without any possible contradiction, one of the master’s of XXth century, recognized by all the other great architects. For this reason, some of the comments let here are really silly, without any kind of interest.

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    As a student in the early ’70s I had an opportunity to visit the Swiss Pavilion in Paris. Despite studying Corb’s works for a couple of years prior to that trip it was only then I realized his genius. The building’s proportions were stunning to see. It left an indelible impression on me.

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