The Urban Nightmare Of Le Corbusier

The machine-city envisioned by Le Corbusier, and made into practice in decades of modernist bureaucracy, has ultimately produced, according to Simon Richards' essay, an antisocial environment, against which urban planning seems to be now reacting.

2 minute read

March 4, 2008, 6:00 AM PST

By Nate Berg


"Why is socializing in cities taken to be a good thing? Why do we assume it is beneficial for people to experience urban variety, opportunity, and intrigue? These are not questions normally asked, and it feels perverse to frame them as questions. Still, we have not always been so sure about socializing in cities. We have forgotten the negative argument - that the unregulated social life of large cities is a corrupting influence best avoided. It had never occurred to me to raise these questions until I began research on Le Corbusier. At the same time that he is celebrated as the visionary architect of such modernist masterpieces as the Villa Savoye (1928) and the pilgrimage chapel at Ronchamp (1955), he is decried as an irresponsible and perhaps mentally disturbed city planner. In his Plan Voisin from 1925, for example, Le Corbusier proposed to demolish the center of Paris and replace it with towers in parkland. The prospect of German cities bombed flat by the Allies during World War II made him envious - the Germans were able to rebuild from ground zero. (Incidentally, many British planners offered thanks to the Luftwaffe for returning the favor.) He made plans that would mean (as he put it himself) the "Death of the Street." In proposing the elimination of side alleys and shops, in granting limited space for cafés, community centers, and theaters, in dispersing them over great distances, and constructing them of uninviting concrete, glass, and steel, Le Corbusier expressed his contempt for the teeming hubbub that urbanists now esteem "

Thanks to Alessandro Busa'

Sunday, March 2, 2008 in The Urban Reinventors Online Urban Journal

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