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Le Corbusier

"Architecture is a magnificent interplay in light of forms intelligently and correctly assembled." Le Corbusier [3:35] Le Corbusier is no more. Here in his former studio, his life's work is assembled. He made no concession at the outset of his career and was frustrated during the war years. So Le Corbusier waited until he was almost sixty to realize the important conception which he had evolved in his youth. [4:40] In numerous books and articles, he repeatedly expressed his tastes and believes. And he had made his point so firmly that, up to the moment of his death in 1965 when he was almost 80, Le Corbusier remained the center of heated controversies. [5:30] He was born in Switzerland in 1887, the year when the Eiffel Tower was built, under the name of Charles-Edouard Jeanneret. His first experience of art was decoration. He found no satisfaction in that and looked to other fields for discoveries. The mosques of Turkey first taught him to understand the molding of interior space. He spent three weeks on the Acropolis studying its proportions. He was never to forget. [6:18] In 1917, he settled in Paris. Reacting against Cubism, which seemed to him too decorative, Le Corbusier created with the painter Ozenfant the style known as "Pursim." [6:40] He was fascinated by the research of those artists and architects who were liberating space. He was not yet producing work of his own, but he knew how to look. [6:52] He was convinced and then set about convincing others. He founded a review called L'Esprit Nouveau, The New Sprit. [7:05] He had found a new enthusiasm. He gave himself a new name ­ Le Corbusier, [7:18] "The Architect" [7:13] He was fascinated by his own time and its new technical possibilities. He wrote "to want to fly like a bird was to misconceive the problem. The right way to go about it was to invent a flying machine without thinking about anything except pure mechanics." [7:56] "Let shut our eyes to everything else and face the problem of designing a machine to live in." And he came up with a solution of making building out of a series of standardized elements which could be combined in different ways. The basis was the concrete framework. Interior walls which had no supporting function could then be placed at will while doors, windows, plazas were all prefabricated could be equally freely disposed. It was the foretaste of modern production methods. But how would Le Corbusier's ideas received by society? [8:30] In 1925, despise opposition, he used these methods in building fifty-one small houses near Bordeaux, but their unfamiliar look caused the occupants to alter them. Le Corbusier's only comment was "life is always right." [8:51] From that time on, untreated concrete became the hallmark of his architecture.


[9:36] There is no mistake he made overthrow of classical aesthetic principles, but the new plastic language simply grew out of new technical possibilities. [9:54] Building on piles (Pilotis). [10:16] Free facades. Swiss student dormitory, Paris University. [10:36] Architectural promenade. Salvation Army hostel, Paris. Constructed: 1929-1931. [11:07] Free plan. Brazilian student dormitory, Paris University. Constructed: 1957-1959. [11:30] Sun breakers. [11:49] Roof terrace. Marseille apartment block. Constructed 1947-1952. [12:20] The Purist expression of Le Corbusier's theories, his most enjoyable architectural promenade, is the Villa Savoye, Poissy, in a suburb of Paris, built in 1929. [16:20] Today the Villa Savoye is one of France's historic monuments. [16:50] On the other side of the world in India and towards the end of his life in 1954, Le Corbusier gave a brilliant illustration of his theory of his sun breakers in the Mill Owner's building at Ahmedabad, completed in 1956. [18:21] The Shodan House at Ahmedabad, a stunning complex of interlocking volumes beneath the parasol roof, offers variations in the use of sun breakers. [20:36] Another example of open structure, the Sarabhai House at Ahmedabad also completed in 1956. [21:35] In a Park in Zurich stands the Heidi Weber Museum ­ striking polychromatic structure which was Le Corbusier's last work. [22:04] "A Sociologist" [22:17] For Le Corbusier, a house, no matter how beautiful, had little significance in itself. What counted for him was the interrelationship between the dwelling, its useful work, and its possibilities for leisure. [22:34] He was concerned with urbanized man, freedom for the individual. That is to say spaces, sunlight, and open space for each and all of us. [22:55] In 1942, he invented a scale of measurement based on human proportions ­ the "Modulor." He had previously written "primitive man used to measure by the length of his face, his forearm, or his thumb." Le Corbusier decided to base all his architectural calculations on the requirements of a six-foot man. [24:53] At the age of sixty, in 1947, he undertook his first great work ­ the apartment block in Marseille. Each apartment is designed on two levels. They all look out on two directions ­ east and west. Light is everywhere. A balcony gives each apartment an extension outside. It also gives shade in summer but lets in light in winter when the sun is on its lowest course. [25:45] But when this building was completed a suit was brought against Le Corbusier for defiling the landscape.


[25:56] For 5 years, he worked on this great communal housing project despise the difficulties of immediate post-war period and despise repeated attacks on him in the press, but the imposing edifice ended by imposing its creator on the world. [27:27] The Marseille block was conceived as one of the group forming the "Radiant City." Eight such blocks would have been grouped around a civic center in San De in eastern France if Le Corbusier's plan for the reconstruction of this war-ravished town had been carried out. [27:45] For many years, Le Corbusier worked on the problem of reclaiming urban space with his cousin, Piere Jeanneret. Together, they had founded an architecture studio on the Rue de Sèvres in Paris where, among their succession of international collaborators were Sert, Sakakuro, Wogensky, Doshi, also Xenakisis who supervised the building of the monastery of La Tourette near Lyon between 1956 and 1959. [30:05] Le Corbusier sited the building atop a steep slope. On the left the windowless block of a chapel. On the right the monastery block lit through slanted frames of glass. [32:14] The chapel, unsurpassed in its austerity, is a volume of silence. [32:39] "The City Planner" [32:51] Honored and recognized only late in life, Le Corbusier had been planning cities for many years. Though his designs were never carried out. For forty years, he persisted in dreaming of ideal cities. In 1925, he produced the "Voisin Plan" for reconstructing the center of Paris. It was called "utopian." [33:19] He studied the skyscraper using various round plans, cross shapes, fan shapes, and cartesian. In 1945, he envisaged four tall buildings as a focal point in Paris. The public cried "sacrilege." [33:32] On the bay of Rio would have stood an apartment block with a freeway behind. Buenos Aires was to have the business section on the bank of the Rio de le Plata. And for twelve years, he continued replanning the town of Algier, but his plans were rejected like those for New York, Antworth, and Berlin. He separated the different functions of a city. His Athens Charter of 1934 listed them as dwelling, working, recreation of the body and mind, circulation. [34:01] The classification of urban zones accorded with classification of man's activities. But what man? For Le Corbusier, man was a one type only ­ whether the city had population of 30,000 or one million; whether it was in one part of the world or another. [34:41] India proved his great chance. The orient offered Le Corbusier the opportunity which Europe had denied him. Thus, the man, who once had said on one side of primitives, on the other modern times, found himself working in a country which had just gained its independence but was terribly handicapped economically by its backwardness. Thus, the city had to built with bare-hands by impoverished laborers in grueling heat. [37:35] Following a political redrawing of the map for India, the State of Punjab had to give itself a capital city. Its administrative center consists of three immense buildings on a mile-long stretch at the foot of Himalaya. [38:00] "In March 1965, in front of a considerable crowd, President Nehru inaugurated the new capital of Punjab. The French architect, Le Corbusier, who had constructed the capital and outlined the plan of the city, attended personally the ceremony. 500,000 persons will be accommodated at Chandigarh." [38:20] Chandigarh today ­ horizontal, spreading as far as the eye can see. Its plan no longer discernible. 3

[38:41] "Where there is order; there is harmony," Le Corbusier said. He always maintained that right angles were better than wavering lines. So he planned the city like a checkerboard. There are seven thoroughfares. Roads 1, 2, and 3 take the heavy traffic. Road 4 is for shopping. Roads 5 and 6 are feeders from and to city's sections. Road 7 is a parkway. Such an ambitious plan of his city, which is still free of major traffic problems. [39:35] And what are the population which live in Chandigarh? The majority are either construction workers or ministry personnel. Every morning 10,000 employees go to work in their offices which are at some distance from where they live. 4,000 of them work in the secretariat alone. [40:40] At the opposite end of the esplanade is the High Court building. Thirty years earlier, Le Corbusier had written "architecture goes beyond utilitarian needs. You use stones, wood, and concrete, and with these materials you build houses and palaces. That is construction. But suddenly you touch my heart. You do me good. And I am happy. And I say `this is beautiful.' That is architecture. Art had entered in." [42:30] Facing the High Court is the Assembly building. [44:29] Neither Paris nor Moscow nor New York had ever offered Le Corbusier a project of this importance. But even fifty years of struggles had not shaken conviction of this man who said "of this I am sure I am right. I am right."



Le Corbusier

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