North America’s Radiant City: Le Corbusier’s Impact on New York

Co-op City. Image © Flickr CC user Runs With Scissors

Despite his status, Le Corbusier never had the opportunity to build in New York – in fact he only had one chance to build in the at all, completing Harvard’s Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts in Cambridge in 1963. But this doesn’t mean his influence isn’t visible all over the Big Apple. Originally published on 6sqft as “Towers in the Park: Le Corbusier’s Influence in NYC,” this article takes a look at three examples where Le Corbusier’s “Radiant City” ideals were transplanted to New York.

Even before taking his first trip to New York in 1935, Le Corbusier described the city as “utterly devoid of harmony.” After seeing it in person, his feelings didn’t soften. He wasn’t impressed by the tall towers, rather stating that they were the product of an inferiority complex, and he thought the city’s leaders were too timid to hire him. He wrote an opinion piece in the New York Times saying that “American skyscrapers have not attained the rank of ; rather, they are merely small objects such as statuettes or knick-knacks, magnified to titanic proportions.” He thought the city would benefit from buildings that “don’t try to outdo each other but are all identical.”

Light Matters: Le Corbusier and the Trinity of Light

View looking south to “upwardly springing” waves of light. Church of Saint-Pierre, Firminy, . Image © Henry Plummer 2011

For his three sacred buildings, Le Corbusier has played masterfully with orientation, openings and textures to create kinetic architecture with daylight. His pilgrimage chapel at Ronchamp, the monastery of Sainte Marie de La Tourette, and the parish church of Saint-Pierre in Firminy reveal distinctive and individual approaches that each render contemplative spaces with light. In his book “Cosmos of Light: The Sacred Architecture of Le Corbusier,” Henry Plummer, Professor Emeritus at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, has analysed these projects with outstanding photographs taken over 40 years and brilliant writing.

Read on for more about how Le Corbusier created his cosmos of light.

CIAM 4 and the “Unanimous” Origins of Modernist Urban Planning

Courtesy of THOTH Publishers

Held in 1933 on a ship in the Mediterranian, the fourth congress and Le Corbusier’s subsequent Athens Charter (La Charte d’Athenes) are widely regarded as a defining period in Modernist , a moment when architects came to an agreement on what the future of our cities should look like. But how correct is this interpretation? Edited by Evelien van Es, Gregor Harbusch, Bruno Maurer, Muriel Perez, Kees Somer and Daniel Weiss, a significant new 480-page book, “Atlas of the Functional City - CIAM 4 and Comparative Urban Analysis” examines the congress in depth. In the following excerpt from the book’s introduction, Daniel Weiss, Gregor Harbusch and Bruno Maurer examine the commonly accepted history of the congress, finding that support for the underlying principles of Modernism was perhaps not so unanimous after all.

In Conversation With Sheila O’Donnell And John Tuomey, 2015 Royal Gold Medallists

John Tuomey and Sheila O’Donnell – recipients of the 2015 Royal Gold Medal. Image Courtesy of RIBA

When Sheila O’Donnell and John Tuomey, who practice in partnership as O’Donnell + Tuomey, were named as this year’s recipients of the RIBA Royal Gold Medal, a palpable collective satisfaction appeared to spread throughout the profession. No one could find criticism in Joseph Rykwert and Níall McLaughlin’s nomination, nor the ultimate choice of the RIBA Honours Committee, to bestow the award upon the Irish team. Their astonishingly rigourous body of work, compiled and constructed over the last twenty five years, has an appeal which extends beyond Irish and British shores. A robust stock of cultural, community and educational projects, alongside family homes and social housing projects, leaves little doubt about the quality, depth and breadth of their mutual capabilities and the skill of those that they choose to collaborate with.

Read the conversation with the Gold Medallists after the break.

How a Le Corbusier Design Helped Define the Architecture of Southern California

© Elizabeth Daniels

We all know that in architecture, few things are truly original. Architects take inspiration from all around them, often taking ideas from the designs of others to reinterpret them in their own work. However, it’s more rare that a single architectural element can be borrowed to define the style of an entire region. As uncovered in this article, originally published by Curbed as “Le Corbusier’s Forgotten Design: SoCal’s Iconic Butterfly Roof,” this is exactly what happened to Le Corbusier, who – despite only completing one building in the US - still had a significant impact on the appearance of the West Coast.

Atop thousands of homes in the warm western regions of the United States are roofs that turn the traditional housetop silhouette on its head. Two panels meet in the middle of the roofline and slope upward and outward, like butterfly wings in mid-flap. This similarity gave the “butterfly roof” its name, and it is a distinct feature of post-war American and commercial architecture. In Hawaii, Southern California, and other sun-drenched places, the butterfly roofs made way for high windows that let in natural light. Homes topped with butterfly roofs seemed larger and more inviting.

Credit for the butterfly roof design often goes to architect . He began building single-family homes with butterfly rooflines for the Alexander Construction Company, a father-son development team, in Palm Springs, California, in 1957. The Alexander Construction Company, mostly using Krisel’s designs, built over 2,500 tract homes in the desert. These homes, and their roofs, shaped the desert community, and soon other architects and developers began building them, too—the popularity of Krisel’s Palm Springs work led to commissions building over 30,000 homes in the Southland from San Diego to the San Fernando Valley.

Material Masters: Le Corbusier’s Love for Concrete

To celebrate the first anniversary of our US Materials Catalog, this week ArchDaily is presenting a three-part series on “Material Masters,” showing how certain materials have helped to inspire some of the world’s greatest architects.

Le Corbusier‘s love affair with , evident in a number of his nearly 75 projects, began early. Having already designed his first house, the Villa Fallet, at the age of just 17, in 1907 the young architect embarked on a series of travels throughout central Europe on a mission of artistic education. In Paris, he apprenticed at the office of Auguste Perret, a structural rationalist and pioneer of reinforced concrete, followed in 1910 by a short stint at Peter Behrens’ practice in Berlin. These formative experiences initiated a life-long exploration of concrete in Le Corbusier’s work.

How ‘Vandalizing’ a Classic Exposes the Hypocrisy of Today’s Modernists

©

These images from artist Xavier Delory show Le Corbusier’s celebrated Villa Sovoye in a shocking state of disrepair. With stones and spray paint, vandals have tragically defaced its pristine walls and windows. Don’t panic: the images shown here are photoshopped. But what if they weren’t? In this article originally published by Metropolis Magazine as “Modernism in Ruins: Artist “Vandalizes” a Le Corbusier Masterpiece,” AJ Artemel explores how our shock and dismay at such images exposes an underlying hypocrisy in our reverence for famous modernist works, and proposes that perhaps  and vandalism are more closely related than we thought.

Spotlight: Le Corbusier

© Willy Rizzo

“Space and light and order. Those are the things that men need just as much as they need bread or a place to sleep.” 

The Swiss-born architect, urban planner, designer, painter and writer Charles Edouard Jeanneret-Gris (1887-1965), better known as Le Corbusier, is widely regarded as one of the pioneers of the modernist movement in architecture.  Over the course of his five-decade career, he saw work built across Europe, India, and the United States.

AR Issues: Redefining Modulor Man for a New Era of Inclusivity

Courtesy of The Architectural Review

ArchDaily is continuing our partnership with The Architectural Review, bringing you short introductions to the themes of the magazine’s monthly editions. In this post, we take a look at AR’s September 2014 issue, which includes an examination of the sometimes difficult relationship between and disability. Here, AR Editor Catherine Slessor argues that we should adapt our understanding of ’s Modulor Man to be more inclusive, asking “What happens when disability is not seen as a problem for architecture to solve, but as a potential generative impetus?”

From Vitruvius to Le Corbusier, the mathematical proportions of the human form have historically been used to shape and define architecture. Man is, essentially, the ultimate measure of all things. The famous Modulor Man was originally based on the height of the average Frenchman (1.75 metres, or 5 feet 9 inches) but was later increased to a more strapping 1.83 metres (6 feet) because of Corb’s penchant for English detective novels in which (literally) upstanding characters such as policemen, were always 6 feet tall.

The Berlage Archive: Elia Zenghelis (2009)

In this 2009 lecture titled “Fabricating Ideology and Architectural Education,” seminal architect, educator, and co-founder of OMA  discusses the development of ideologies that shape architectural discourse vis-a-vis architectural education. Arguing that architectural education is motivated by religious, socio-political, and economic principles, Zenghelis makes the case that the war-torn 20th century has been an era of upheaval and conflict, resulting in the loss of historical context and a confused state for artists and architects. Proposing the idea that architecture is a servant of power, and is thus intrinsically intertwined with political and societal trends, Zenghelis urges a return to a contextualized understanding of architectural history in order for contemporary architects to develop a sensitive and nuanced approach to their practice. 

Discussing his relationships and collaborations with former students and colleagues Zaha Hadid, Rem Koolhaas, and Peter Eisenman, as well as the political and architectural legacy of such giants as Le Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe, Elia Zenghelis provides a compelling conversation about the inherent role of architecture in political discourse.

Don’t miss the other lectures in The Berlage Archive series

25 Free Architecture Books You Can Read Online

If you don’t have access to an library (and even if you do), sifting through shelves can take hours. Buying books can be even more painful — for your wallet, at least. Instead, why not browse this list of 25 books that are all free and easily accessible online? Some are well-known classics of , but we hope you find a few surprises as well.

Video: Artist Animates 5 Iconic Modern Homes

Five of history’s most iconic modern houses are re-created as illustrations in this two-minute video created by Matteo Muci. Set to the tune of cleverly timed, light-hearted music, the animation constructs the houses piece-by-piece on playful pastel backgrounds. The five homes featured in the short but sweet video are Le Courbusier’s Villa Savoye, Gerrit Rietveld’s Rietveld Schröder House, ’s Farnsworth House, ’s Glass House and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater.

Vive la France: A Round-Up of French AD Classics

© Flavio Bragaia

In honor of Bastille Day, we’ve rounded up some of our favorite AD Classics built in France. From Bernard Tschumi‘s Parc de la Villette to our most popular classic project, Le Corbusier‘s Villa Savoye, take a moment to revisit these renowned works.

Rare Footage of Le Corbusier Discussing his Work, Poetry & the “Ideal City”

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Check out this rare footage that captures Le Corbusier as a “young man of 71-years-old” surrounded by paintings and discussing his work, poetry and the “ideal city“ within his 1933, self-designed flat.

9 Architects Reflect on the Homes That Most Inspired Them

The homes that inspire architects.

Where do you receive inspiration? Nalina Moses asked the question to nine contemporary architects, asking each to choose one residence that had left an impression on them. The following answers were first published on the AIA’s website in the article “Homing Instinct.”

When nine accomplished residential architects were asked to pick a house—any house—that has left the greatest impression on them as designers, most of their choices ran succinctly along the canon of American or European Modern architecture. Two—Alvar Aalto’s Villa Mairea and ’s La Maison de Verre—were even tapped twice.

If the houses these designers chose weren’t surprising, the reasons they chose them were. Rather than groundbreaking style or technologies, what they cited were the moments of comfort, excitement, and refinement they offered: the restful proportions of a bedroom, the feel of a crafted wood handrail, an ocean view unfolding beyond an outdoor stair.

AD Classics: Weissenhof-Siedlung Houses 14 and 15 / Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret

© Hassan Bagheri / hbarchitectural.com

The two-family structure known as Houses 14 and 15, designed by Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret in 1927, is one of the earliest built manifestations of the Five Points of a New Architecture.  Located on the outskirts of Stuttgart, the attached dwellings were part of the Weissenhof-Siedlung (Weissenhof Estate), an experimental housing development and exposition of Modern architecture.  A progressive precedent for the emerging International Style’s work in Stuttgart serves as a critical prototype in the development and realization of the Swiss architect’s architectural identity, which would revolutionize 20th century architecture.

The Eileen Gray Movie: E1027, Insidious Chauvinism, and “The Price of Desire”

In a public interview, director Mary McGuckian speaks with Shane O’Toole of DoCoMoMo about her soon-to-be-released film, “The Price of Desire,” a biopic about the influential Irish modernist Eileen Gray – narrated from the perspective of Le Corbusier, no less. McGuckian explains how the film and the extensive research behind it went far beyond the usual remit of a biopic. Indeed, not only did it spawn an accompanying documentary (“Gray Matters“, directed by Marco Orsini) and book, it even played a pivotal role in the restoration of E1027, Gray’s seminal house design, to a point where it was possible to film on location.

McGuckian explains how the film deals with “the universal female experience, particularly for creative women… the lifetime experience of was a combination of the time she lived in, the personality she was, and for want of a better expression, insidious chauvinism.” The film casts Le Corbusier as Gray’s rival, who defaced E1027 with his infamous murals, but also uses a little cinematic license to present him as the admirer who tells “the story, from his point of view, of how came to be the most important, inspirational and innovative architect of their generation, and gives her back the right to be recognized for that work.”

Kikutake’s Sky House: Where Metabolism & Le Corbusier Meet

Sky House, Tokyo, 1958. Image © Kawashima Photograph Office

In this article, first published in the Australian Design Review as “The Meeting of East and West: Kikutake and Le Corbusier“, Michael Holt outlines the cross-fertilization of ideas that helped spawn the Japanese Metabolist movement, focusing on how ’s ideals were key in the design of one of the movement’s most enigmatic projects, Kiyonori Kikutake’s Sky House.

Japanese architect Kiyonori Kikutake’s Sky House (1958) remains an exemplary project that defines the Metabolist agenda but, more significantly, underscores the notion that a single-family dwelling can be ideologically recursive and strategic. Kikutake, however, was not without a somewhat unlikely precedent in the renowned Le Corbusier.

Both architects established an order and method of working via their smallest designs – Kikutake in Sky House and Le Corbusier at Villa Savoye (1929) – and developed their notions through written accounts (Kikutake’s Metabolist Manifesto, 1960 and Le Corbusier’s Purist Manifesto, predating the built work, in 1918). Finally, each scales up their ideas to the level of the urban through Kikutake’s Tower-Shaped Community Project (1959) and Le Corbusier’s Urbanisme at Chandigarh, India (1953). To locate the origin of the influence, it is necessary to first examine Le Corbusier’s position as the figurehead of Congrès International d’Architecture Moderne (CIAM).

Read on for more about this unlikely chain of influence