Modern Man: The Life of Le Corbusier, Architect of Tomorrowby Published 04 Nov 2014
|Modern Man: The Life of Le Corbusier, Architect of Tomorrow.pdf|
The Raven is a riveting biography of Le Corbusier—a man who invented new ways of building and thinking. The Raven (a translation of his invented name) is a penetrating psychological portrait of a true genius and constant self-inventor, as well as a sweeping tale filled with exotic locales, sex and celebrity (he was a lover of Josephine Baker), and high-stakes projects. In Flint’s telling, Corbusier isn’t just the grandfather of modern architecture but a man who sought to remake the world according to his vision, dispelling the Victorian style and replacing it with something never seen before. His legacy remains controversial today, as the world grapples with how to house its skyrocketing urban population and the cult of the “starchitect” continues to grow.The Raven is for readers fascinated by the complex personal lives and outsized visions of both groundbreaking artists and dazzling, charismatic innovators like Steve Jobs.
Modern Man: The Life of Le Corbusier, Architect of Tomorrow Reviews
I enjoyed the book very much but would have appreciated photos of some of the well known buildings along with the text The personal details of his life were fascinating.
In architecture, "If Frank Lloyd Wright was Bill Gates, Le Corbusier was Steve Jobs." should be on the back cover. He is not nearly as well known in the States as in Europe but his buildings are mimicked everywhere. I loved how his critics were not silenced in this book, but also that he was pardoned, not the pure culprit of the failures of urban renewal. The author noted that his works were not urban failures; those who mimicked his projects and diluted his ideas were often the failures. I was inspired to read this following Jane Jacobs and scoffing, often mistakenly at the role he played in sprawl and anti-urbanism. Very interesting for those who enjoy (or hate) modernism. This is a must read for 21st century architects, if you have the time.
First and foremost, I’m a contractor and after reading his believe me, I would not have wanted to work on any of hist projects.
The saying that art is in the eye of the beholder definitely applies to Le Corbusier’s designs. His wife was right, they were bland and passionless. While he aspired to make living functional for the masses, he vision was clouded with his on narcissistic attitude. Any successful project requires a good working relationship between owner, contractor and A/E. In his case, that would have been an impossibility and then you have him ignored major construction issues with his projects: electrical, HVAC, roofing and plumbing. Throw in cost overruns and you wind-up with a disaster and yet he cared nothing of the problems. They weren’t his. If they weren’t his problems, then whose were they? And then there’s the man himself. His natural demeanor and egotistical approach to life is appalling. A known collaborator with the Vichy Government! For those who aren’t historically up-to-date, that makes him a supporter of the Nazi regime. That alone would be enough to not hire him.
Now, were some his designs ground-breaking? Yes and no. I depends how you define ground breaking. His quote masterpieces at Untied d Habitation and Chandigarh led to the greatest disaster to ever hit the US urban infrastructure-the projects. I wouldn’t want that on my resume.
Enough about the man, the review is to concentrate on the author’s work.
Anthony Flint does an excellent job in providing readers with a wonderful historical walk through Le Corbusier’s life and all the people he came in contact with that would accept his ideas and make him one of the most sought-after architects of his time.
Well done, Mr. Flint.
The name, Le Corbusier, rang a bell. I knew he was a twentieth-century architect. French, probably (Swiss, actually). Big concrete buildings came to mind. But that’s about all I knew off the top of my head. I had no idea that he was responsible for modular architecture, or that he was among the first to try to address overpopulation through dense urban planning. And I was certainly unaware that Le Corbusier was tackling all of this as early as the 1920s. Thus, Anthony Flint’s biography, Modern Man, is a worthy venture, shedding light on this thinker and provocateur who, outside of architecture and design circles, has undeservedly fallen out of recognition.
Of course, as with most visionaries, Le Corbusier had his share of missteps, often due to a megalomania and opportunism that wouldn’t keep him from working with anyone when it suited him, even the Nazi-connected Vichy Regime in WWII France. And, while he basically gave us IKEA and some initial ideas and blueprints to build smarter, he also championed the type of urban design that gave us crime-ridden housing projects and car-centric sprawl in America. He’s definitely a polarizing figure, but Flint reminds us not to throw the baby “out with the modernist bathwater.” (p. 213) Or, more poignantly:
“For the twenty-first-century, however, among the greatest lessons to be learned from Le Corbusier are his design innovations in housing, and his recognition of the grand scale necessary to accommodate millions of people moving into cities each year. The reasons those contributions are important is because the urban century has arrived, in dramatic fashion.” (p. 213)
Flint’s writing is clear and engaging, making for a fairly quick read. He structures each chapter around a major project of Le Corbusier's, so those looking for a strictly chronological biography may grow a bit frustrated, as the narrative does bounce around quite a bit (an aspect I mostly found intriguing, though, at the start of a few chapters, I did find myself a bit confused as to which decade we had landed in). Regardless, those interested in architecture, built environments, urban planning, or even just design, will be hard pressed not to gain some insight from this text.
I'm of two minds about this biography. I liked that it presented a multi-faceted view of Le Corbusier: it's critical of his egotism, his relationships with both his colleagues and his family, and his dabbles with Nazism. And at the same time it acknowledges the contributions he made towards architecture (and towards urban design--though those were more misguided). But it's also very much a survey of his life and lacks some of the details I was interested in: the context that shaped his work and the impact it had; its place in the modern architecture movement/culture at the time; how his style evolved and what his creative process was like. So, pros: it's not super worshipful of him. Con: it's not particularly deep.
As an aside, I'm not thrilled with the Goodreads rating system, because 2 stars is "it was okay" and 3 stars is "liked it" (4 is "really liked" and 5 is "amazing"). So, to me, 2 stars is not a rating of "it was a bad book", but really just "it was fine, but not something I'd go out of my way to recommend to anyone". There's a lot of granularity on the upside and little granularity on the downside, which I think makes sense, but I think I am a bit stricter about this interpretation than other people (seems like 3 is a neutral rating for many others here).