CONTEXT 5

 

There is a discrepancy in Le Corbusier's legacy that divides many of his smaller scale projects, like the Villa Savoye and other platonic villas of the 1920s from his large-scale urban proposals. Today, architects still use Le Corbusier's buildings as valuable precedents; they embody a formal language and set of techniques that remain current for designers around the world, and their visual legibility has grown more wide-spread in the several decades since the international diffusion of modernism. This contrasts completely with the legacy of Le Corbusier's urban planning. Le Corbusier thought of his proposed modernism as a method that could be applied to ways of making at any scale, from small objects like books and furnishings, to buildings, to entire cities and larger metropolitan regions. This general applicability of his method proposals was necessary, because industrialization had brought new technologies and materials that had profound implications affecting humans and their world at every scale. But Le Corbusier's modern urbanisms were so reviled in the late 60s and 70s that they were used as a primary point of contrast for the development of post-modernism. By the early 80s, the modernist city was widely regarded as a failure amongst urban planners and architecture critics, who used its shortcomings to construct grounds for the failure of modern architecture as a whole through a form of ritualistic killing:

 

Modern Architecture died in St. Louis, Missouri on July 15, 1972 at 3:32 pm (or thereabouts) when the infamous Pruitt-Igoe scheme, or rather several of its slab blocks were given the final coup de grâce by dynamite. 

 

In this quote from Charles Jencks, the demolition of the Pruitt-Igoe Housing Complex was used to support the case to move away from architectural modernism. But, this support is gained through the formal similarity linking failed government housing projects to modernist urban proposals of the early twentieth century; the fact that Cabrini Green and Pruitt-Igoe looked at great deal like Le Corbusier's Ville Radieuse and that all were consciously identified as modernist certainly seems  persuasive when evaluating these cases as objects. But this formal similarity obscures the gulf that separates infamous government housing projects around the world from Le Corbusier's modernisms when the cases are examined in terms of the methodologies that produced them and the more specific results of their production. Formal similarities reveal very little in the comparison of how separate projects are made, the various stake holders influencing their production, how they were funded and how inhabitants use them.

 

 

 

Jencks, C. 1981. The Language of Post-Modern Architecture. Rizzoli International Publications, Inc: New York; p 9.

 

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