Mary McLeod lectured at the Cornell Architecture NYC program studio about Le Corbusier’s politics and change (“Architecture or Revolution”) ...

Mary McLeod lectured at the Cornell Architecture NYC program studio about Le Corbusier?s politics and change (?Architecture or Revolution?) tracking his swings from the right to the left and back again against his work, especially his urban proposals.

It was a fascinating study of the intensity of commitment, dogmatic belief, accommodating politics and the most unrealized (and discredited) of all of Corb?s work.

Of course, it was wonderful just to hear that someone still cares about the greatest architect of the 20th century. Her talk had me thinking about the relationship of his work and transformation to the modern artists, especially Parisian artists, of the time.

Corb, like Duchamp, had an early fascination with the mechanical, the mass produced: he posited the Objet-Type and Duchamp had the Readymade. The idea of mass produced housing and his obsession with Taylorism and Henry Ford are, one could argue, a right-leaning approach to how the volk will finally be brought into the modern world.

His evolution into a more organic, curvilinear, female set of forms was coincident with his rejection of Taylorism and the machine of the free market. His change of heart in the 1930?s to quoting Lenin marked his first, but not the last time, he would move from right to left.

Corb became interested in the rustic, the tribal, the natural while Picasso and other cubists were embracing ?primitive art?. One could even see a change in Picasso?s work from the early fractured cubism to his later work filled with gracious and sexual curves, just as Corb moved from his early orthogonal work to the slow introduction of the curve, and eventually to fully freeform (yet ultimately highly structured) curved structures.

It raises the question of whether Corb, who considered himself a painter first (he painted all morning), was following the trail set by his full-time painter friends. His work would embrace the surreal, cubism and the primitive all within a few years, just as his politics would start with Taylorism, move to Lenin, back to Vichy and finally to the left again.

Simply because he was so passionate at every stage of his evolution his swings from left to right begin to look as much like stylistic changes as real changes of heart. He is not alone in accommodating Fascist regimes (see ?Architects of Fortune?) but his is perhaps the best example of a stylistic shift accompanying a shift in politics. But of course he was always didactically diagrammatic!

The lecture was beautifully illustrated with images of his publications, sketches and design proposals, and beautifully argued by McLeod.


Thanks to Wilvan I. Van Campen for the image featuring LC?s dead dog?s fur fashioned into a bookcover (and is there anything creepier than that?)