Theory and Design in the First Machine Age

By Reyner Banham | Go to book overview

18: Le Corbusier: town-planning and aesthetics

BY 1926, THE year when Le Corbusier committed to print his next important theoretical statements, he had become something of an established figure in the world of Paris architecture. The middle-of-the-road magazine La Construction Moderne included him in a list of celebrities whose views on the housing crisis they canvassed; he had some half dozen schemes completed or in construction, and even his personal appearance was a subject of comment, for he endeavoured to present himself as an homme-type of the age, in the dark clothes, bowler hat, pipe and bow tie of an engineer. But what had established him, more than anything else, was the Pavillon de l'Esprit Nouveau, erected with the powerful and necessary backing of Charles de Monzie, Minister of Fine Arts, at the Exposition des Arts Decoratifs.

Though the exhibits designed by Kiesler and Melnikov were, in some ways, more advanced aesthetically and structurally, this pavilion had the advantage of completeness, it envisaged a whole way of domestic life down to its minor details. The structure was, effectively and allowing for an existing tree on the site, a full-scale mock-up of one unit of the Immeuble- Villas, complete with its adjoined terrace, furnished with objets-type and Purist works of art. It created an entirely homogeneous visual setting, a creation of a single mind, so that one is tempted to compare it to those interiors completely designed by such masters of the previous generation as van de Velde or Mackintosh, but there is an extremely important difference. Only the structure is a work of design by the mind that created the environment, the rest was claimed to be a work of selection almost in the Duchamp manner from standard products, objets-type, already on the market, and the homogeneity of the whole came largely from the adaptation of the structure to an aesthetic derived from certain classes of objets-type, and the rejection of any standard products that did not answer this aesthetic. Although certain distortions of intention appear in this process, and some objects had to be diverted from their original functions, e.g. laboratory vessels as flower-vases, the resulting interior owed much of its impact to the directness with which mass-produced equipment, such

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Theory and Design in the First Machine Age
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 3
  • Contents 5
  • Acknowledgements 6
  • Illustrations 7
  • Introduction--The Machine Age 9
  • Section One 13
  • 1: the Academic Tradition and the Concept of Elementary Composition 14
  • 2: Choisy 23
  • 3: the Academic Succession 35
  • 4:England:Lethaby and Scott 44
  • 5: Germany 68
  • 6: the Factory Aesthetic 79
  • 7: Adolf Loos and the Problem of Ornament 88
  • Section Two 98
  • 8: Futurism 99
  • 9: Futurism: Theory and Development 106
  • 10: Sant'Elia and Futurist Architecture 127
  • Section Three 138
  • 11: Holland 139
  • 12: De Stijl: the Dutch Phase 148
  • 13: Expressionism 163
  • 14: De Stijl 185
  • Section Four 201
  • 15: Architecture and the Cubist Tradition 202
  • 16: Progressive Building in Paris 214
  • 17: Vers Une Architecture 220
  • 18: Le Corbusier 247
  • Section Five 264
  • 19: the Berlin School 265
  • 20: the Bauhaus 276
  • 21: Germany: the Encyclopaedics 305
  • 22: Conclusion 320
  • Index to Proper Names and Buildings 331
  • Index, to Topics, Publications, and Organisations 335
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