New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) is currently presenting an exhibition featuring the work of Le Corbusier as architect, urban planner, interior designer and artist, as well as other unknown dimensions of his prodigious oeuvre, like writer and photographer.
LE CORBUSIER. (Charles-Édouard Jeanneret). / Courtesy of Fondation Le Corbusier.
According to the museum, the aim of the exhibition is to reveal “the ways in which Le Corbusier observed and imagined landscapes throughout his career, using all the artistic techniques at his disposal, from his early watercolors of Italy, Greece, and Turkey, to his sketches of India, and from the photographs of his formative journeys to the models of his large-scale projects.”
Le Corbusier´s work changed the panorama of the history of art and architecture in the 20th century. The bibliographical presentation of the exhibit could go more or less like this: Known as “Le Corbusier“, Charles-Edouard Jeanneret (1887-1965), was a French architect of Swiss origin. His works represent the renovation of modern architecture, informed by the thematic fields of cubism and purism as background for his designs. He is famous for stating, “the house is a machine for living”, and promoted the idea that “cities should be tailored to man’s needs”.
LE CORBUSIER. Chapel of Notre-Dame du Haut, Ronchamp. 1950–55.
His buildings stand on pillars, and occasionally they seem to float. Inspired by the legends of Babylon, he created rooftop gardens, a novel idea at the time, as well as facades with large adjoining windows, where the use of glass marks the point of differentiation.
The Swiss-French artist introduced concepts of functionality and rationalism to architecture, with geometric spatial relationships similar to those found in the ancient Chinese canon of Feng Shui, a concept that today seems familiar, but was virtually unknown to Western audiences in the first half of the 20th century. His most paradigmatic work is Villa Savoye (1929) in the French municipality of Poissy.
LE CORBUSIER. Villa Savoye, Poissy, 1928-31.
His concept of the contemporary city, designed in 1922 (but never materialized) included a collection of sixty-story cruciform skyscrapers connected through gardens and highways. He segregated pedestrian circulation paths from the roadways, and entertained the fanciful notion that airplanes could land and take off between the towering buildings.
Between 1925 and 1945 he worked as urban planer for cities such as Paris, Algiers, Barcelona, Stockholm and Saint Dié. During this time he also wrote his fundamental texts, Charter of Athens (1943) and Toward an Architecture (1923), both required reading for architecture students.
Interior re-creation of the Unité d’Habitation, Marseille. 1946 –52.
Le Corbusier: Atlas of Modern Landscapes is the first major comprehensive exhibition of his work in New York City. The program includes a series of talks and lectures about the artist’s travels and the modern landscape panorama. It will be on view at MoMA until September 15. ■