Willy Boesiger and Hans Girsberger . *Le Corbusier 1910-65
*(Basel: Birkhauser, 1999). *To
order this book, click
here!*
Reviewed by Alessandra Capanna
**O**ne can conceive
no better beginning to sketch the creative genius of Le Corbusier
than the following sentences take from the laudatio accompanying
the honorary doctorate degree from the faculty of jurisprudence
of Cambridge University in June 1959:
*...He holds philosophic views on his art: he believes with
Pythagoras that number, and with Plato that geometry, underlies
the harmony of the universe and the beauty of objects, and with
Cicero that utility is the mother of dignity. He is also akin
to Leonardo, in that he observes the principles of the engineer
while applying to them the eye of a painter and sculptor, and
for those who are seeking the famous 'Divine Proportion', has
proposed the standard he called 'Modulor', based on the stature
of man, or to be exact, a six-foot Englishman...*
The recent republication of this book by Birkhauser, the only
volume of Le Corbusier's complete works, is an excellent vehicle
for the divulgation and understanding of the mathematical spirit
that runs through Le Corbusier's "patient research",
more evident in some instances, more hidden in others. Most
readers will already be familiar with the master from La Chaux-de-Fonds'
study on the Modulor. Some pages in this book are dedicated to
this "range of dimensions which makes the bad difficult
and the good easy" (Albert Einstein). To complete the chapter,
these pages are followed by other that examine the pictorial
work, the sculptures and the woven wall hangings created by Le
Corbusier. These are intended only to complete his architectural
realizations, but more generally because his creative genius
sank its roots in the ancient union of art and mathematics. This
is an ideal and practical correspondence that is completely synthesized
in the rude outlines in low-relief of the human figure that was
engraved in the concrete of the Unités d'habitation. The present volume follows in large measure the impagination
of the eight-volume edition, but the chronological catalog is
subordinated to a subdivision in chapters that single out the
great Corbusian themes: private homes, large-scale constructions,
museums, sacred architecture and urban design. It should be considered,
in any case, a basic text for the educational formation of architects.
In terms of didactics, the study of Corbusier's works is an effective
justification for the insistence on method in the practice of
composition, even though this is somewhat less cultivated today.
For those who are interested in the mathematic structures and
in the geometric architectonics, this is a useful basic tool
that above all makes it possible to compare the theory with the
application. Beyond serving to verify the congruence of the method
right through to the construction of a project, this is an exercise
that allows us to understand that the objective of Le Corbusier
in the identification and use of harmonic proportions was to
show that he was conscious that an insistence on the initiatory
character, on the magico-ritual aspect, of the golden number
did not seem to be coherent with the scientific aspect of it,
that which permitted the elaboration of a geometric grid in order
to establish dimensional norms for each prefabricated habitable
unit. This book is also a useful instrument for
approaching even those projects that are less well-known, but
are equally rich in the correct scientific applications of complex
geometries, in large part conceptually derived from the studies
undertaken for the Modulor. However, from this point of departure
are derived a series of developments that are conceptually engaging
not only as ulterior evolutions of mathematically structured
compositions, but also from a typological point of view, as in
the spiral and hyperbolic geometry. The spiral
is the figurative matrix for the museum based on continuous growth,
and even if the first design ideas relative to this way of organizing
a course of exhibit spaces can be traced to a period that precedes
the studies for the Modulor, the intimate relationship between
the laws that govern the growth of the logarithmic spiral, to
which the form of the museum refers, and the value of the golden
number, is well-known. The evolution of this compostional theme
is examined in the beginning of the chapter on museums, where
the first projects may be analyzed in an uninterrupted sequence,
up to the realization of Ahmedabad and Tokyo. Hyperbolic
geometry, which in Le Corbusier's work has been studied in relation
to those works defined as "sonorous architecture",
or rather as the response to technical-functional demands, led
to the realization of volumes with original aesthetic characteristics.
Because, as Le Corbusier affirms in the chapter dedicated to
the mathematics in his book, *The Modulor:*
*Mathematics is the majestic edifice imagined by man in
order to comprehend the universe. There one encounters the absolute
and infinite, what may be grasped and what may not be grasped.
There walls are erected in front of which one may pass and repass
without results; sometimes a door is found; one opens it and
enters, and is in other places, there where the gods are found,
there where lie the keys of the great systems. These door are
those of miracles. Passing through one of these doors, the operating
force is no longer man, but the contact with the universe. And
before him occur and develop the fabulous series of limitless
combinations. He is in the land of numbers.*
**RELATED
SITES ON THE WORLD WIDE WEB**
Great Buildings Online: Le Corbusier Walk-through
tour of Notre Dame du Haut, Ronchamp Skewarch.com:
Le Corbusier Le
Corbusier Database Hermann
Kühn, Le Corbusier 1887 - 1965 Der Modulor (in German, with
good links) Hermann
Kühn, Le Corbusier, The Architect and His Works
**ABOUT
THE REVIEWER**
Alessandra Capanna is an Italian architect living
and working in Rome. She has taken her degree in Architecture
at University of Rome 'La Sapienza', from which she also received
her PHD, discussing a thesis entitled "Strutture Matematiche
della Composizione", concerning the logical paradigms in
music and in architecture. She is the author of *Le Corbusier.
Padiglione Philips, Bruxelles*, on the correspondance between
hyperbolic paraboloid geometry and technical and acoustic needs,
and its final and aesthetics consequences. She has published
articles on mathematical principles both in music and in architecture
such as "Una struttura matematica della composizione",
remarking the idea of self-similarity in composition; "Musica
e Architettura. Tra ispirazione e metodo", about three
architectures by Steven Holl, Peter Cook and Daniel Libeskind;
and "Iannis Xenakis. Combinazioni compositive senza limiti",
taken from a lecture given at 'Dipartimento di Progettazione
Architettonica e Urbana', University of
Rome. She is presenting a paper on Le Corbusier's Philips Pavillion
at Nexus 2000.
Copyright ©2000 Kim Williams Books
*top of page* |
*NNJ *Homepage
**About
the Reviewer**
**Comment on this article**
**Related
Sites on the WWW**
**Order
books!**
**Research
Articles**
**The
Geometer's Angle**
**Didactics**
**Book
Reviews**
**Conference and Exhibit Reports**
**Readers'
Queries**
**The Virtual Library**
**Submission Guidelines**
**Top
of Page** |