Art: Corbu

  • Share
  • Read Later

(6 of 10)

"Towers in a Park." It was the first of many plans for cities—plans that called for the redoing of Barcelona, Algiers Antwerp, Buenos Aires, and the war-destroyed French city of Saint-Dié. None were built, but they still marked him as one of the most audacious city planners of his time, the man who more than anyone else foresaw the age of the traffic jam and the exploding slum. At the center of his City of Three Million was a group ot cross-shaped skyscrapers, 50 to 60 stones high, placed far apart in expanses of greebery like "towers in a park." "These skyscrapers," Le Corbusier airily explained, "will contain the city's brains. Everything is to be concentrated in them: banks, business affairs, the control of industry." Beyond the central ring was a civic center, and then a series of belts of apartment houses, with a garden for every apartment. Factories and utilities were relegated to the outskirts, for "in a decent house, the servants' stairs do not go through the drawing room." There were different levels of traffic, ranging from an airstrip to superhighways for vehicles of varying speeds to walks reserved solely for pedestrians.

Le Corbusier made another plan for Paris, but since it presupposed demolishing a good part of the existing city the Parisians did not take to it at all. "Megalomania!" screamed the weekly Arts-Vandalism! Vanity! Monotony!" "In Paris," sighs Corbu, "prophets are kicked in the rear."

Madmen! He built a studio and house for his friend, Sculptor Jacques Lipchitz, which Lipchitz recalls somewhat plaintively as "a good studio, but he would not allow me to put any of mv sculptures along the walls. He was such a Calvinist in those days." He managed to put up a model Workers' City near Bordeaux, but the buildings so offended the local authorities that they refused to furnish them with water for six years. In 1927 Corbu, with his cousin and partner Pierre Jeanneret, submitted a plan for the League of Nations. As he bitterly wrote of the incident later: "After 65 meetings of the jury in Geneva, the project of L-C and Pierre Jeanneret was the only one of 360 schemes (seven miles of plans) that received four votes out of nine. It was at this point that the delegate from Pans pointed out: 'This scheme has not been drawn in India ink. I insist it be disqualified, and it was." Huffed Corbu of his critics in those years: "Madmen!"

In 1930 Corbu became a French citizen and married Yvonne Gallis an earthy, black-haired young woman from Monaco. Yvonne had little use use for the walls of glass he built into their Paris apartment. ("I'm tearing my hair out of my roots. All this light is driving me crazy!"), but she knew hot to soothe her volatile husband better than anyone. Things began to go a bit better for Corbu from then on. The next year, on a broad green site in Poissy, he built a residence called Villa Savoye. Like his other buildings, it was basically a "pure prism" raised on stilts (pilotis), banded horizontally with long ribbon windows and topped with a roof garden. But its geometry was pure liquid, with every room and level flowing into the next as if the walls and floors could be dissovled at will, until the villa itself has become an "architectural promenade."

  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. 3
  4. 4
  5. 5
  6. 6
  7. 7
  8. 8
  9. 9
  10. 10