Germaine Greer's mention of the Villa Savoye in the piece that I quoted yesterday brought images of Le Corbusier's buildings dancing into my head. Incredibly influential to modernist architecture, he has unfairly gotten a bad rap for his supposed spawning of a thousand concrete housing developments, but I've been a fan ever since the first time I saw a picture of his Unite d'Habitation in Marseilles. A touring exhibition called Le Corbusier - The Art of Architecture is currently in Lisbon and will travel to Liverpool and then on to London at the end of 2008 and in early 2009. He was an extraordinarily complex thinker, and Steve Rose appreciates that as much as I do:
Perhaps the most contradictory thing about Le Corbusier, however, is that he never really contradicted himself at all. Despite appearing to change his mind repeatedly, he was doggedly consistent in many respects. He continually strove to transcend the material and to improve the spirit of humanity. He carried beliefs in proportion and harmony throughout his life. You might say that his talent was broad enough to absorb and resolve opposing forces - to turn the contradictory into the complementary. And that, surely, is what makes him a great artist.
Only a fraction of his designs were ever realized, and one might argue some of them, like his idea to replace most of the Right Bank in Paris with skyscrapers, were never intended to do anything more than provoke:
"His grand plans and visions are more interesting for the way they didn't work than the way they did, but the buildings he completed show an architect who towers above everyone," said Sunand Prasad, president of the Royal Institute of British Architects, which is staging the show. "Being inside a Corb building is a thrill. It is like watching Pelé play football."
Meanwhile Phaidon has just published a literal giant of a monograph called Le Corbusier Le Grand, some images from which you can see here. I have plans to go leaf through it in the SFMOMA museum store, if they'll let me.