21st century urban revitalization must often erase the influence of one architect

This 2009 article describes revitalization challenge faced in cities all around the world: erasing or adapting the legacy of the architect known as Le Corbusier. REVITALIZATION readers familiar with any successful efforts to deal with his influence are invited use the Comments section below.
Le Corbusier was to architecture what Pol Pot was to social reform. In one sense, he had less excuse for his activities than Pol Pot: for unlike the Cambodian, he possessed great talent, even genius.

Unfortunately, he turned his gifts to destructive ends, and it is no coincidence that he willingly served both Stalin and Vichy. Like Pol Pot, he wanted to start from Year Zero: before me, nothing; after me, everything.

By their very presence, the raw-concrete-clad rectangular towers that obsessed him canceled out centuries of architecture. Hardly any town or city in Britain (to take just one nation) has not had its composition wrecked by architects and planners inspired by his ideas.

Le Corbusier’s language reveals his disturbingly totalitarian mind-set. For example, in what is probably his most influential book, the 1924 Towards a New Architecture (the very title suggests that the world had been waiting for him), he writes poetically:
We must create a mass-production state of mind:
A state of mind for building mass-production housing.
A state of mind for living in mass-production housing.
A state of mind for conceiving mass-production housing.

Le Corbusier wanted architecture to be the same the world over because he believed that there was a “correct” way to build and that only he knew what it was. The program of the International Congress for Modern Architecture, of which Le Corbusier was the moving spirit, states: “Reforms are extended simultaneously to all cities, to all rural areas, across the seas.” No exceptions. “Oslo, Moscow, Berlin, Paris, Algiers, Port Said, Rio or Buenos Aires, the solution is the same,” Le Corbusier maintained, “since it answers the same needs.”

Le Corbusier does not belong so much to the history of architecture as to that of totalitarianism, to the spiritual, intellectual, and moral deformity of the interbellum years in Europe. Clearly, he was not alone; he was both a creator and a symptom of the zeitgeist. His plans for Stockholm, after all, were in response to an official Swedish competition for ways to rebuild the beautiful old city, so such destruction was on the menu. It is a sign of the abiding strength of the totalitarian temptation, as the French philosopher Jean-François Revel called it, that Le Corbusier is still revered in architectural schools and elsewhere, rather than universally reviled.

See full article.

See Arty’s page on Le Corbusier’s work & photo credit.

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