Le Corbusier: Architect and Feminist

Le Corbusier: Architect and Feminist

Le Corbusier: Architect and Feminist

Le Corbusier: Architect and Feminist

Synopsis

This is a revealing book which, for the first time, investigates the central influence of feminism in the work of Le Corbusier; one of the most important and revered architects of all time.

The text covers Le Corbusier's upbringing and training and sets this in the context of the cultural atmosphere of his time, covering issues of gender and religion. It reveals aspects of his private life such as personal relationships, which have barely been explored before as no biography currently exists. Furthermore, the author reveals, for the first time in print, a previously undiscovered and unpublished Le Corbusier building, making this book an incredibly significant addition to existing literature on the great man.

In short, the new evidence and theories contained in this volume amount to major revelations about this hugely revered and central architectural figure of the 20th Century.

Excerpt

The idea for this book came to me over ten years ago whilst teaching history to access students on the Women into Architecture and Building Course at South Bank University in London. I then realised that the standard texts on architectural history had little to offer my students - mature women, many with children, often from ethnic minority groups, none of whom were easily fooled. Indeed, it quickly became clear that such texts very often perpetuated the very myths that worked against such women embarking upon architectural careers. It seemed to me that there was a real need to make history relevant to those students by showing where they fitted into it, the presence of women being noticeably lacking in most versions of architectural history.

As I travelled with the students through the stan- dard myth of Modernism that I myself had been taught (I was at that time a very novice teacher), it became apparent to me that one architect, above all others, did actually give consideration to women and their needs. This was Le Corbusier. I was however perplexed by the way in which the female sex was represented in his paintings. I could not understand why, if in his opinion women were solely creatures of the flesh, he spoke so highly of them in his writings and worked closely with a number of them on a professional basis. Further investigation led me to a vein of feminist writing on the subject of Le Corbusier in which he was vilified in the most extreme terms. Such a perspective seemed too simplistic to be useful.

Writing in the late 1980s Adrian Forty noted the way in which Le Corbusier came to embody Modernism for the architects of Britain during the postwar period.

To a large extent, the history of Le Corbusier in
Britain is the history of modern architecture in
this country. In a way that has happened to no
other architect, he has been used to personify the
ideas, ideals and the architecture of Modernism;
as a result his name has been used, sometimes as
a talisman, sometimes in the place of Lucifer
himself, in arguments that may only be related
distantly to the man. That he has attracted so much
controversy is not only on account of his own
talents, or failings, but because of what he has
been taken to represent in the debate about
modern architecture.

I would argue, on the same note, that Le Corbusier's views on women have been taken to represent those of Modernism itself. Consistently misrepresented, it is my aim to find out what they may have been.

Cardiff, May 2003

Note

1 A. Forty, 'Le Corbusier's British Reputation' in T. Benton (ed.), Le Corbusier Architect of the Century (London: Arts Council, 1987), p.35.

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