Le Corbusier

Theodore Dalrymple At The City Journal On Le Corbusier-A Few Links On Brutalism

The Architect As Totalitarian:

‘At the exhibition, I fell to talking with two elegantly coiffed ladies of the kind who spend their afternoons in exhibitions. “Marvelous, don’t you think?” one said to me, to which I replied: “Monstrous.” Both opened their eyes wide, as if I had denied Allah’s existence in Mecca. If most architects revered Le Corbusier, who were we laymen, the mere human backdrop to his buildings, who know nothing of the problems of building construction, to criticize him? Warming to my theme, I spoke of the horrors of Le Corbusier’s favorite material, reinforced concrete, which does not age gracefully but instead crumbles, stains, and decays. A single one of his buildings, or one inspired by him, could ruin the harmony of an entire townscape, I insisted. A Corbusian building is incompatible with anything except itself.’

I noticed a mini-brutalist revival there for a minute.

[Readers of this blog will know that the idea there exists comprehensive knowledge of ‘reason’, or the idea that political science will arrive at solutions to all previous political problems, or the idea that modern doctrines can provide ‘systemic’ blueprints for either buildings or political systems are all ideas viewed very skeptically here.]

You’ve got to be careful where you go looking for what’s good, true and beautiful.

As for Boston City Hall, it was built in ’69 and aims to be open, accessible, and [to] connect with Boston’s past:

Confusing inside!

As posted, a podcast on raw concrete in NYC here.

Brutalist architecture flourished from the 1950s to the mid-1970s, having descended from the modernist architectural movement of the early 20th century. The term originates from the French word for “raw”, as Le Corbusier described his choice of material béton brut, meaning raw concrete in French.’

Some buildings mentioned: 375 Pearl Street is being worked on.  The ‘Krull‘ Long Lines building is not for use.

Well, at least it isn’t Buzludzha, The Communist Spaceship plopped down as though from a world of Pure Ideology, Nature properly subdued:

As previously posted:

–Visit Lileks.com. A fine humorist with a sharp pen and a keen eye.

Here’s Australian art critic Robert Hughes discussing the Albany plaza, and almost hyperbolically criticizing the aims of modernist architecture.

***Fun fact, he pronounces the “Boogie Woogie” the “Boo-gie Woo-gie.”

Modernism goes to the movies.

Some pictures at the link.

There’s mention of the Mt. Rushmore house at the end of North By Northwest. I suspect some among us have wanted to live in a modernist lair.

From an article in Der Spiegel on the Bauhaus, where modernism got its start:

‘The real feat achieved by Gropius and his cohorts was to have recognized and exposed the sociopolitical and moral power of architecture and design. They wanted to exert “effective influence” on “general conditions,” fashion a more just world and turn all of this into a “vital concern of the entire people.”‘

See Also: They designed a city in the heart of Brazil that really doesn’t work for people: Brasilia: A Planned City

No thanks to living in planned communities upon someone else’s overall vision.: Roger Scruton In The City Journal: Cities For Living–Is Modernism Dead?Repost-Via Reason: ‘Salvador Allende’s Cybersocialist Command Center’…Cities should be magnets for creativity and culture? –From The Atlantic: Richard Florida On The Decline Of The Blue-Collar ManFrom Grist.Org Via The New Republic Via The A & L Daily: ‘Getting Past “Ruin Porn” In Detroit’… some people don’t want you to have the economic freedom to live in the suburbs: From Foreign Policy: ‘Urban Legends, Why Suburbs, Not Cities, Are The Answer’

A structure in the desert…not even a city Update On LACMA, Michael Heizer And The ‘Levitated Mass’-Modern Art And The Public;..where is modernism headed? Via Youtube: Justin, The Horse That Could Paint

Denis Dutton suggested art could head towards Darwin (and may offer new direction from the troubles of the modern art aimlessness and shallow depth…the money and the fame) Review of Denis Dutton’s ‘The Art Instinct’

From The American Interest: ‘Architect Of Destruction’

Full piece here.

That’s a pretty hyperbolic title.

Our author revisits the modernist neo-classicism of Le Corbusier and Oscar Niemayer, suggesting a doctrinal and causal connection between the idealized shapes and forms of both architects and an underlying authoritarianism.

‘Furthermore, Niemeyer shared with his master the fundamental belief in the “civilizing mission” of the state—namely, the state privilege of hoarding unlimited acres of urban land to carve the city (and society) according to the ideals of the ruling elite. The two architects, Le Corbusier and Niemeyer, demand the patronage of tyrants – or, rather, tyrants with a Vision. The New York Times Magazine does not tell its readers that Niemeyer’s Algerian projects overlap with the most authoritarian stage of the Boumediene dictatorship, between 1971 and 1975 ‘

I suspect some folks at the Times are acting under a progressive moon at the moment, where even the more moderate liberal sympathies feel pressure to rediscover radical roots.

Here’s Australian art critic Robert Hughes discussing the Albany plaza, and almost hyperbolically criticizing the aims of modernist architecture.

Is there a bit of a backlash going on?

***Fun fact, he pronounces the “Boogie Woogie”  the “Boo-gie Woo-gie.”  

———————-

Donald Pittenger, at Art Contrarian, and formerly of 2 Blowhards, has been looking at modernism.  From the banner of his blog:

‘The point-of-view is that modernism in art is an idea that has, after a century or more, been thoroughly tested and found wanting. Not to say that it should be abolished — just put in its proper, diminished place’

They designed a city in the heart of Brazil that really doesn’t work for people: Brasilia: A Planned City

Check out the ‘Socialist Cybernetics‘ of Salvador Allende.

In working towards a theme, check out Buzludzha, the abandoned communist monument in Bulgaria’s Balkan mountains, which still draws up to 50,000 Bulgarian Socialists for a yearly pilgrimage.  Human Planet’s Timothy Allen visited the structure in the snow and took some haunting photos.  You will think you’ve stepped into a Bond film and one of Blofeld’s modernist lairs, but with somewhat Eastern Orthodox tile frescos of Lenin and Marx gazing out at you, abandoned to time, the elements and to nature.

Related On This Site:  No thanks to living in planned communities upon someone else’s overall vision.: Roger Scruton In The City Journal: Cities For Living–Is Modernism Dead?Repost-Via Reason: ‘Salvador Allende’s Cybersocialist Command Center’From Grist.Org Via The New Republic Via The A & L Daily: ‘Getting Past “Ruin Porn” In Detroit’… some people don’t want you to have the economic freedom to live in the suburbs: From Foreign Policy: ‘Urban Legends, Why Suburbs, Not Cities, Are The Answer’

A structure in the desert…not even a city Update On LACMA, Michael Heizer And The ‘Levitated Mass’-Modern Art And The Public;..where is modernism headed? Via Youtube: Justin, The Horse That Could Paint

Denis Dutton suggested art could head towards Darwin (and may offer new direction from the troubles of the modern art aimlessness and shallow depth…the money and the fame) Review of Denis Dutton’s ‘The Art Instinct’

Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’ Classical Liberalism Via Friesian.Com-’Exchange with Tomaz Castello Branco on John Gray’

From The Wall Street Journal Via AL Daily: Buckminster Fuller’s World

Full article here.

Terry Teachout takes notice of the traveling exhibit:  Buckminster Fuller:  Starting With The Universe (at the Whitney in late June).  So was Fuller comparable to Frank Lloyd Wright?:

“…Fuller was a Wright-like figure, a high-octane utopian who believed in the life-enhancing potential of modern technology. The difference was that Fuller lacked Wright’s ruthless determination.”

Both have their followers and left some interesting work behind.  The discussion also reminds me of the explosion of science fiction this past century, and some of its darker mystic, utopian…and even religious (cultlike-this is alleged of course) tendencies that can make for good reading. 

This is one point Teachout wants to address when such ideas are pulled into the political realm:

“Was modernism totalitarian? That’s coming at it a bit high, but it’s true that more than a few top-tier modernists were also one-size-fits-all system-mongers who thought the world would be improved if it were rebuilt from top to bottom — so long as they got to draw up the plans.”

I first came across that argument here.  Do such visions have potentially harmful consequences in the political arena?

Perhaps, but in the meantime Fuller’s geodisic dome (platonic solids, ever-existing?) is still pretty interesting.

See Also On This Site:  Roger Scruton In The City Journal: Cities For Living–Is Modernism Dead?..Jonathan Meades On Le Corbusier At The New Statesman

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Jonathan Meades On Le Corbusier At The New Statesman

Full post here.

Meades seems interested in defending Le Corbusier (wikipedia):

“He remains, more than 40 years after his death, the hate figure of tectonically blind anti-modernists,  the quality of his work is deeper than the current criticism surrounding him…

Perhaps Meades’s best defense is on aesthetic grounds:

“The problem is that both his detractors and his acolytes want to believe that his written manifestos, urbanistic visions, utopian ideologies and theories are compatible with his buildings.”

In other words, Le Corbusier made beautiful, aesthetically profound buildings and he stayed true to his art enough to outlast these critics.

Perhaps anti-modernist, anti-socialist tendencies do fuel some Roger Scruton’s criticism, but Meades’ tunnel vision doesn’t exactly convince.  I am a little wary of Le Corbusier’s idealism, and I don’t find the charge of aesthetic totalitarianism entirely untenable:

The fact that this debate is occuring in American right-wing and British left-wing magazines may be worthy of mention.

See Also:  Roger Scruton In The City Journal: Cities For Living–Is Modernism Dead?  Brasilia: A Planned City

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