Art: Corbu

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In 1932, at University City, Paris, there rose a dormitory called the Swiss Pavillion-a great slab on stilts with a front that was mostly of glass, and blank end walls. One Swiss newspaper predicted that it would corrupt the youth who lived in it, but to architects it was a milestone; it became the model for countless other slabs before and since the U N Building. In all his work, Corbu had lifted his prisms on high to reclaim the land underneath. His columned structures had freed the façade for inventive sculpturing, opened up interiors, surrendered the long dark walls to light. And as a grace note, he had added the roof garden. These devices, which he imperiously declared to be the basis of a "fundamentally new esthetic," seem simple in retrospect-but then, so does the arch.

Captivated Audience. As Corbu built, he also wrote. In the U.S., Frank Lloyd Wright thundered his contempt for the French "painter and pamphleteer," but one by one, young architects were captivated by him. "There were no teachers to teach us the new architecture," says the Chinese-American architect. I. M. Pei, "so we turned to Corbu's books and these were responsible for half our education." In Greece, a young student named Constantinas Doxiadis, who was to become famous in his own land, got a Corbu book as a gift on Christmas Eve in 1932. "I glanced through it," he recalls, "then I read it through the night. In the morning I knew Corbu had opened my eyes."

In Stuttgart, Germany, another young man named Sep Ruf went with his first employer to see two houses that Le Corbusier had designed. The employer declared them a "blasphemy"; the employee thought they were great. "We argued," says Ruf who is now president of Munich's Academy of Art, "in the long, open, austere living room, and my boss got so angry that he fired me on the spot."

In Moscow, Corbu built a ten-story glass-walled office building that survived two decaded of Stalinist criticism as anti-esthetic to become, now, much admired. Then Le Corbusier flew to Brazil (in the old Graf Zeppelin), to advise a team that included Oscar Niemeyer and Lucio Costa on the designing of Rio's 1936 Ministry of Education, a slab on pilotis with a new feature: a honeycomb of sun-shading breeze-admitting vanes at the windows, called brises-soleīl. That single example spread to give all the major cities of Latin America, notably Brasilia, their present look of clean, high, colorful, modern business buildings.

Keep Out. Le Corbusier's whitewashed studio at 35 Rue de Sévres, which he has occupied for almost 40 years, had become a magnet for apprentice architects from Japan, England, the U.S., South America. It still is, for no week passes without its qouta of admiring visitors. A long, dusty corridor leads them up a winding staircase to an odd wooden door. They pause in a tiny waiting room, and finally a small gate with a ferocious KEEP OUT sign opens. Past the gate is the cramped office of the master- a lonely, childless widower whose office is dominated by a big blow-up photgraph of children on his Marseille roof.

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