Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Friday, 28 January 2011

Le Corbusier's City of Tomorrow

Walking the city has somehow wandered in to the realms of town planning in my second dissertation. In 1924 Le Corbusier published The City of Tomorrow, an architectural polemic against the modern city and proposing a new Contemporary city. I love Le Corbusier's book because of its scrapbook quality; architectural plans are combined with photographs, aerial views of towns and sketches.
‘A TOWN is a tool.
Towns no longer fulfil this function. They are ineffectual; they use up our bodies, they thwart our souls. The lack of order to be found everywhere in them offends us; their degradation wounds our self-esteem and humiliates our sense of dignity. They are not worthy of the age; they are no longer worthy of us.’

As the world was changing; with war, industry, and traffic, architects and town planners believed that the city needed changing too.

New York :Congestion, a damning condemnation.

Hausmann's restructuring of Paris meant that it was the ideal space for new plans and aesthetic debates. Corbusier wants the city to combine green space with functional, efficient networks of labour.

But Corbusier's city appears to me to be just another kind of a machine, with skyscrapers that 'thwart our souls' and our green spaces by looming above them. The women in my dissertation walk the city, map human emotion upon it and react against such drastic destruction and restructuring. After all isn't human emotion more like the labyrinthine palimpsest of London than the open boulevards of Paris?

Leonora Carrington- Labyrinth


  1. " another machine...thwart space...women walk...human emotion..."

    Have you read Alice Notley's The Descent of Alette?

    "One day, I awoke" "& found myself on" "a subway, endlessly" "I didn't know" "how I'd arrived there or" "who I was" "exactly"

    Alice calls it a female epic and that it is...

    So then Alette finds herself in this labyrinth already mapping emotion in some sort of opposition to, maybe more quandary over machine. Machine itself really a language (vocabulary, grammar, syntax) (towers of Babel): PR and its mass logic the skyscrapers of a mind now taken over by material reductionist isolationist palaver such that we no longer have access to the very creative force of each of our vocalization. Alice here attempts to unleash life right in the "subway" or "tube" of this machine. I think you might enjoy it.

    Biology may help us free language and vision from the mechanistic physics. Will it though help us become more osmotic, permeable in our experience of our perceptive process, relationship, and interdependence: this living?

    Here's to building a language world co-emergent with life.

    A quickly packed thought or two in response: Thank you for thinking.

  2. Good take on people even flee the core...then the burbs...then beyond.

  3. Lewis Mumford gravely noted that the Necropolis, the “final cemetery” awaited each civilization (City in History. 7). When technology, rent, and the overall costs and pressures of life in an urban environment become out of proportion then society is destined to fall. This happened in Egypt, Rome, Greece, China...In New York the "affordable housing" issue is so abstract and the reality is that these new affordable high rise communities are meant to push the longstanding residents of most historic communities (Williamsburg, Lower East Side, Greenpoint, Harlem, ect..) further out to less desirable locations. The city is no longer a desirable place to make a start for young artists, it is a playground for the rich. This misfortune gained great momentum mid-century when Robert Moses, who was a fan of Corbusier, created "projects" on the West and East sides of New York. Good post, what is your thesis on?

  4. Architecture is basically a container of something. I hope they will enjoy not so much the teacup, but the tea.

    Yoshio Taniguchi

  5. Thank you for all of the interesting comments, you have given me a lot to think about, a lot of good things to think about. I am writing 2 dissertations but this one is about women writing about walking in the city of London after the first world war.