I haven’t written a book review in a while and I thought I would bring it back to the blog. I do a lot of reading as a master’s student but I try to read outside the academic curriculum as much as possible. Reading for personal pleasure is much more relaxing than reading while desperately attempting to sponge in all the information for later professional use.
Recently, I read Le Corbusier by Kenneth Frampton, part of the World of Art series (isbn: 0-500-20341-5). This was for a ‘book report’ assignment but I choice this specific title because Le Corbusier is probably the most recognized name in modern Architecture and Urban Planning and as I did not study architecture as an undergrad I have a lot of catching up to do. This was a great chance for me to learn some of that basic history I missed out on.
As far as short biographies go the book was really well put together. I was intrigued by Frampton’s attempt (a very successful one) at bringing the man out of the architect and analyzing the person not just the designs.
I won’t paste my whole essay into this blog but I would like to include, the last section of my writing, my personal thoughts of Frampton’s biography.
‘ I am not the utmost fan of Le Corbusier’s works and to be honest my knowledge of he and his designs was rather limited before reading this book. In fact, that was one of the reasons I chose to read this particular title. I am fully aware that most architects and people in this field believe Le Corbusier to be the unquestionable god of modern architecture and I do not dispute his long lasting and wide spread influence on the industry as a whole. However, I would venture to argue that it was not his designs that made Le Corbusier great. Those were more the revelations of the time and could have been developed through any one of the “purists” or other architects in the “modern movement”.
What set Le Corbusier apart, what made it impossible for others to develop works like his, was his way of thinking, his soul one could say. While Frampton does a wonderful job of bringing the man out of the god and humanizing Le Corbusier the Grand, I do not think this was his main goal. What really humanized Le Corbusier for me was his internationalism, the fact that he succeeded (and failed) all over the world, that these international experiences bettered him, like raw metal refined through heat and fire. I believe this is why I relate better to this portion of the man, Le Corbusier.
I too live an international life, one I like and would prefer to extend into as many different countries as possible. Also, I feel connected to the artist and writer that were hidden in the shadow of the architect (Corbusier). These are two activities I try to balance outside my work as a designer and I fervently believe that any person wishing to better them self should pursue a variety of activities to broaden their mind and develop their skill set. For these reason I look past the architect Le Corbusier, at the man, at Charles Edouard Jeanneret-Gris (his name before taking on the pseudonym Le Corbusier), the great things he accomplished and in the development of his person and his dreams for the world. This is the man that I admire; the man that made great leaps forward in his personal development, not ‘Le Corbusier the Grand’ who everyone thinks they know simply by looking at his works.’
I do recommend this book to anyone who is interested in Architecture, not only students and professionals but anyone who would like to learn more about the birth of ‘modern architecture’. Frampton’s style is easy to follow and not overly academic. Should you pick it up, I am confident you will enjoy it.