coromandal


in the land of the timid
April 21, 2008, 12:40 pm
Filed under: brave new world | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

(le Corbusier|peasant|more peasants|Rockefeller)

This is from the review of a book about Corbusier’s trip to America in the 1930s – a lecture tour and business trip.  It seems he developed a low opinion of the new world; two examples of its crude character are given here.  He had an affair with an American woman from New York city whom he ultimately decided was peasant-like.  He pursued business with Rockefeller, who was building skyscrapers at the time, and also concluded he was less than civilized. Peasant lovers and land developers. Very cosmopolitan!

Le Corbusier in America is the fascinating but sad story of his master’s attempt to woo the New World in the 1930s, even as he insulted it for timidity. Mardges Bacon has been working on this tome for 20 years and, with its 80 pages of detailed notes, it is a piece of scholarship that will not be superseded. Among her many insights are the ways his American lectures helped establish modern architecture in the academies, how he almost won a series of important commissions (before his caustic comments lost them), the role he played in bringing mass-housing to this country and the design of the UN Headquarters. Also the affair with his American muse, Marguerite Harris, is clarified: a woman he could see as a symbol of the New World and compliment in letters and drawings as ‘the peasant woman of New York’. The fact that most lovers would not take this as praise suggests how complex and sophisticated were his thoughts. He also said that Nelson Rockefeller, who he hotly pursued for commissions, has ‘the iron fist of a peasant’ — though not to his face. Modernism and the primitive were mixed in LC’s mind during the ’30s while Americans, reading his books of the ’20s, were determined to find only the apostle of the machine. This led to continual misunderstanding.

~Charles Jencks book review of Le Corbusier in America: Travels in the Land of the Timid, by Mardges Bacon, London: MIT Press, 2001.

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