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Architectural and

Artistic Form
Le Corbusier -

Gavin Doheny
Chapter Page

Form as Drama; Investigation of Form 1

Form as Organic Sculpture; Michelangelo the

sculptor 7

Le Corbusier and Form: Formal Ideas 11

History & Theory
(Formal) Conclusion; Architecture of Reinven-
tion 20
Architectural and Artistic Form;
Le Corbusier and Michelangelo.
Bibliography 22

Gavin Doheny.

Cover Image; Tauraux painting

- Le Corbusier

i ii
the plastic incident fulfils itself in an overall form”3. Forms are
Chapter One
not based distinctly on a single exterior element of creation
but rather on a culmination of intertwined experiences.
Form as
Drama Ideology regarding the industrial age in architecture
have been put centre stage in Le Corbusier’s architectural
manifesto – Towards a new Architecture. Le Corbusier refers
to the house as a “Machine for living” and envisages an idea
of mass produced dwellings and the community which such
a system may be responsible for. However the issue arises
4 Baker, Geoffrey H. Le Corbusier,
whether Le Corbusier can be seen as both a product of the an analysis of form. New York: Spon
Machine age and as an artist – free to express and create Press. 1984.
Leonardo Da Vinci’s composition sketch of a mechanised gear system. The canvas is the
common ground shared between human and built machine. The artist is human, he is not a forms. “He is not a machine”4. The artist is human, he is not
a machine. In many respects these machine age ideas have 5 Le Corbusier. Towards a New
overshadowed Le Corbusier’s close attention to architectural Architecture, London; Architectural
Press, 1927.
form and its importance in the creation of space. Form is
1. Focillon, Henri. The life of Forms in The architecture of Le Corbusier is based on form.
Art, New York: Witternborn Art Books based upon mass and surface. “Mass and surface are the two
Inc. 1948. “The idea of the artist is form.”1 Le Corbusier architectural
elements by which architecture manifests itself.”5 The complex
forms are married with his understan ding of artistic form.
play of primal forms is the bases of much of Le Corbusier’s
The life of Le Corbusier turns into form: tenderness, nostalgia,
architectural work. Form can be understood as the foundation
desire along with many other impulses. The artist is immersed 6 Le Corbusier. Towards a New
of human experience of architectural spaces. “Our eyes are Architecture, London; Architectural
in the whole of life. He is human, he is not a machine. His
constructed to enable us to see forms in light. Primary forms Press, 1927.
special privilege is to imagine, to recollect, to think and to
are beautiful forms because they can be clearly appreciated.”
feel in forms. Form is not an allegory of feeling but rather its
Architects today no longer achieve these simple forms which
innermost activity. Form activates feeling; between nature
are seen as the basis of good architecture or good art.
and man the forms of Le Corbusier intervene. The artist, Le
Working by calculation, engineers employ geometrical forms,
Corbusier, forms this nature; before taking possession of
satisfying our eyes by their geometry and our understanding by
it. Le Corbusier thinks it, feels it, and sees it as a form. The
their mathematics; their work is based on the direct line of good
architecture of Le Corbusier receives expression through
the medium of form - through the manipulation of composed
forms. To compose is to make use of what is known. “Nothing The ideology of a mass produced society requires
2. Banham, Reyner. Theory and is more engaging than composition, nothing more seductive. an order which is commanded and given purpose. Mass
design in the first machine age, United
States of America; The Architectural It is the true realm of the a rtist”2 Small forms and functional production may be envisaged as counterproductive and may
Press. 1960. members are put together to compose buildings – they are be seen to be a separation from architectural form. The mass
assembled to create volumes. Le Corbusier was a creator of produced cities and towns which have been presented to the
forms, a form giver. The relationships concerning architectural reader of Le Corbusier’s documents seem limitless and without
form and artistic form are so closely intertwined that it can boundary or edge, continuing into the horizon and beyond
be difficult to separate and define one against the other. Le mans comprehension of scale. Form exists due to the edge
Corbusier found it difficult to locate his position on this point. condition which is imposed on an internal or external space.
3. Webber, Heidi. Le Corbusier – The
Artist, Zurich and Montreal. 1988.
In response to a question posed by Heidi Webber in 1962 Form relies upon a boundary and is limited by the edge of the
regarding Le Corbusier’s specialization he replied; “There shape. Le Corbusier’s theory of architectural design can be
1 of 22 are no sculptors only, no painters only, no architects only; broken down and divided to reveal two juxtapositions’. The 2 of 22
very public persona of Le Corbusier is centred on his ideology
of mass production and the modern industrial design age. The
often forgotten or overshadowed view of Le Corbusier’s work
is based on the use of form in design. This is reflected in the
public recognition of the name by which he is more publically
known – Le Corbusier. The name upon which he was born
- Charles Edourd Jeanneret may be seen as a simile for the
overshadowed nature of this architectural foundation - form.

Le Corbusier like many architects demonstrates

artistic qualities as a means of representation in many of
his works. The forms of representation between both artist
sculptor and architect are closely related and during periods
Italian Renaissance Style - one of many identified “styles” in which dramatic architecture aims
overlap. There exists a relationship between artistic form and to avoid being classified.
architectural form which is often neglected and taken in a less
understood manner than the sum of the parts which combine
to create dramatic architecture. Dramatic architecture such that he facilitated the emergence of architecture of pure form

as that of Jeanneret fails to follow in the footsteps of the through which Le Corbusier found expression. However can it

period upon which it is engaged with. It is detached from any be correct to identify a time period through which architectural

“style” and sets its own formula for the creation of space. form is uncovered as artistic form and architectural form

Many of the ideas accepted by architects came not from remain inseparable. In this case architectural form has

the architectural side of Beaux Arts instruction but from the been established with the arrival of the first monuments and

painterly. Julien Guadet insisted on composition in architecture. sculptures – in the creation of the Egyptian pyramids and Greek

Grammaire des Arts de Dessin, written by Charles Blanc in temples.

1867 had in the preceeding years become commonplace in

Forms are conceived in a pure fashion independent
7. Banham, Reyner. Theory and artists subconscious libraries. “Grammaire des Arts de Dessin
design in the first machine age, United
of the styles of art or architecture which wrap around them
emphasised technical methods of expression – brushwork
States of America; The Architectural and label them in a given ‘style’. Julien Guadet often refused
Press. 1960. for example as opposed to subject matter”7 Blancs lack of
to be drawn into the discussion on styles in architecture.
interest in subject matter is matched by Guadits complete
Rather he remained rational. The architectural works of Le
lack of interest in style and realisation in importance of axial
Corbusier demonstrate this rational approach. Guadets views
planning. For Guadet symmetrical disposition of the parts of a
of symmetrical composition in architectural forms were very
building about one or many axes was the predominant master
strong. As stated e focused on the multi-axially symmetrical
discipline. Guadet places emphasis upon the axes of a space
plans and mocked absolute axial symmetry. Guadet emphasised
and did not feel the need to discuss “the clothing of the buildings
the fitting of parts of a building into the axial plan. Axial ordering
8. Le Corbusier. Towards a New forms” in one or more recognisable styles. “Architecture has
Architecture, London; Architectural
has formed the basis of monumental architecture since ancient
nothing to do with the various styles”8. Guadet was the master
Press, 1927. times. It is perhaps this axial logic which forms the ‘good art’
professor of Auguste Perret – one of the many influential
which Le Corbusier speaks of in Towards a New Architecture.
figures in Jeanneret’s early architectural pursuits. Guadet has
The architecture of many Renaissance architects such as
at many times been referred to as a representational figure
Michelangelo, Andrea Palladio and Giulio Romano are focused
of abstract architecture. Colin Rowe, in the June art bulletin
upon such straightforward axial ideals. Le Corbusier states
New York 1953, proposed that he envisaged architecture
that “Nature is order and law, unity and diversity without end, 4 of 22
3 of 22 of pure form. However it would perhaps be truer to conclude
9. Le Corbusier, The Modular. subtlety, harmony and strength.”9 In this case the forms in work of Michelangelo is a creation, not a Renaissance.”12 His 12. Le Corbusier. Towards a New
London. 1954 architecture are directly related to nature and are realised work may be classified under a time period yet it refuses to Architecture, London; Architectural
Press, 1927.
through place and without time. To label a building in style is be held down by the classification of renaissance. His work is
to place a time on the work. Yet every artistic form has in a not a rebirth of a style but rather an individual response to his
historical sense a time in a linear position within history. The personal ideals. The whole sculptural form of Michelangelo
forms of the Pantheon, St. Peters, and the Villa Rotunda along would have risen from the earth as a single mass, unique and
with the Acropolis and the Ville Savoye are timeless spaces entire. This creation of the single unity, based on classical
which are not dominated by their labelled architectural styles. symmetry and proportion - yet confined within the limitations of
Perhaps it is this timeless quality of spaces which is the its own form, creates an organic entity free from the surrounds
foundation stone upon which dramatic spaces are realised. and constraints of open space which support the sculptural
existence of the passionate drama. The form of a building is
American poet and social commentator Allen Tate based on the function provided within the space. The initial
states that ‘Dramatic experience is not logical; it may be design of the Basilica in Rome reveals more balanced and
subdued to the kind of coherence that we indicate when we considered form which has been altered in accordance with
speak, in criticism, of form’. Dramatic spaces are perhaps time and ‘style’. The addition of the three bays in the front and
spaces which excite the mind and perhaps exhibit a lack a great vestibule has dismantled the form or intention of the
of coherence with mainstream logic, views and followings. Sculptorin the Holy City. The intentions of the architect have
Dramatic architecture involves the creation of passionate been compromised. Having once been a beacon of timeless
spaces which rely on the purity of form. Jeanneret’s discussion form it has been submerged into the world of the aesthetic and
of St. Peters in Rome provokes the lesser known and perhaps detail. “The whole idea is destroyed.”13 Le Corbusier suggests 13. Le Corbusier. Towards a New
recognised influence of form in his architecture. Le Corbusier, that two differing masses cannot combine to form a single Architecture, London; Architectural
a revolutionary in modern ideology, was very much influenced Press, 1927.
unifying form. In this way the architecture of St. Peters is lost.
on a more primal level by the works of architects/artists “With its decoration, conceitedly coarse, the fundamental fault 14. Le Corbusier. Towards a New
who moulded and applied various forms in design such as is enormously increased and St. Peter’s remains an enigma for Architecture, London; Architectural
Michelangelo and Phidias. “One has the sneaking suspicion that Press, 1927.
10. JR Curtis, William. Le Corbusier the architect.”14
Ideas And Form, London; Phaidon these artists became the mentors of Jeannerets imagination,
Press Limited. 1986.
the guardians of his aesthetic conscience.”10 Art is based on
Left: Michelangelo’s original plan of
emotion yet there is no emotion without passion. The form of St. Peters in Rome with axial symme-
each individual cut stone in St. Peters is a representation of try and pure creation of a single volume.
dramatic architectural living form. “Stones are dead things Right: Present day plan of St. Peters
sleeping in the quarries but the apses of St. Peters are a with naive extension or addidion of
another form to the pre-existing
drama.” The classical arrangement of carved form which
form which leads to the present day
relies upon taxis, symmetry and shape is a pure creation of architectural situation which seems
the mind and does not rely on existing design principles. The tampered with and is without pure form
and drama.
Pantheon and the Egyptian Pyramids are forms of drama, they
are moving, not confined to a period of time they continue to
influence and generate internal mental space. The human form
11. Le Corbusier. Towards a New as discussed in Towards a new Architecture, is “an exceptional
Architecture, London; Architectural phenomenon occurring at long intervals””in accordance with
Press, 1927.
the pulsation, not yet understood”11 it changes from century to
century while the drama of the architecture of form remains
5 of 22 6 of 22
constant and dignified, surpassing thousands of years. “The
Michelangelo, one of the greatest creative minds alteration and trial of architectural forms. In the architectural
Chapter Two
in architectural form frequently claimed that he was not creations and stimuli of Michelangelo the emphasis of the
an architect. “Rather he considered himself a sculptor and organisation of space was centred on the organic.
Form as foremost artist.”15 This claim is key to understanding the
Organic influence of his love for art on his architectural realisations, “Architecture is a plastic thing. The spirit of order, a
unity of intention. The sense of relationships; architecture deals
18. Le Corbusier. Towards a New
Architecture, London; Architectural
which were conceived as if the masses of structure were
Sculpture organic forms capable of being moulded or carved, of with quantities. Passion can create drama out of inert stone.”18
Press, 1927.

expressing movement, and capturing light, like a sculpted The architecture of Michelangelo is a drama of form, through

body of work. It might be understood that Michelangelo which form is the end product of the unity and order. Proportion

sought to express his art through architecture and three has a significant impact and relevance on how an artist
15. Ackerman, James S. The Archi-
tecture of Michelangelo, Chicago; The dimensional forms. His creative artistic mind has had profound puts forward or exhibits his artistic argument or statement.
University of Chicago Press, 1961 Michelangelo the artist and moulder of forms puts forward
direct relevance to his architecture of sculpture, form and
proportion. The only surviving evidence of Michelangelo’s the same metaphor as Le Corbusier for relating architectural

theory on architecture deals with the plan. The plan being proportions to the human body. Michelangelo uses the body
16. Ackerman, James S. The Archi- as a simile for an organic architectural form. “It is anatomy, 19. Ackerman, James S. The Archi-
tecture of Michelangelo, Chicago; The a two dimensional entity which is responsible for the
rather than numbers and geometry, that becomes the basic tecture of Michelangelo, Chicago; The
University of Chicago Press, 1961 three dimensional form. “When a plan has diverse parts, University of Chicago Press, 1961
all those that are of one kind of quality and quantity must discipline for the architect.”19 The forms of the building follow

be adorned in the same way, and in the same style, and the function. “The parts of a building are compared, not to the 20. Ackerman, James S. The Archi-
ideal overall proportions of the human body but, significantly, tecture of Michelangelo, Chicago; The
likewise other proportions that correspond.” 16
The influence University of Chicago Press, 1961
of the plan as the basis of the architectural sculpted form to its functions.”20 Michelangelo compares a building to a body,

is reinforced in the architecture of Le Corbusier. “The to be seen in an organic light. His reference to eyes, nose

plan is the generator” – Towards a New Architecture. and arms suggest an implication of mobility; the built form is
a drama “the building lives and breathes.”21 Michelangelo’s 21. Ackerman, James S. The Archi-
tecture of Michelangelo, Chicago; The
The work of moulding forms is a world within the free flowing organic art has direct relations with his ‘organic
University of Chicago Press, 1961
world, complete, whole, a world where there is no contradiction. style’ architecture. The architect is perhaps seen as an artist
Non-contradiction is ensured through organisation set on three in sculpting form rather than an individual whom relies on
levels, taxis – the arrangement of parts, genera, and symmetry. logic for his creativity. Similarly Le Corbusier in ‘Toward a New
Taxis divide a composition into parts and fit the resulting Architecture’ sought to clearly define and separate an architect
partitions the architectural elements, producing a coherent and an engineer. “Engineers produce architecture; they employ
work, a unity of clarification, a form. In effect the works of math calculations which give us feelings of harmony.” Architects
Michelangelo and Le Corbusier are based on logically organised are concerned with the arrangement of forms. Le Corbusier
divisions of space. Taxis can be divided into two groups – the states that for architects it is necessary to have recourse
grid and the tri-partition. The grid scheme divides the building to the man of art. Art is the application of knowledge to the
through two sets of lines. The rectangular grid system is the realisation of a conception. Anatomy is the cornerstone upon
most commonly used system in classical architecture where which Michelangelo’s works lye. The reference to the eyes, nose
straight lines meet at right angles. The architectural works of and arms suggests an implication of mobility; the building lives
Michelangelo owe a lot to the studies and documentations of and breathes. The sculpted building is pure and organic.
Vitruvius. In Vitruvius’s De Architetectura, taxis is defined as
17. Alexander Tzonis and Liane The decorative art of artists such as Michelangelo
Lefaivre. Classical Architecture The “balanced adjustment of the details of work separately, and,
Poetics of Order, London; The MIT as to the whole, the arrangement of the proportion with a may be understood as tools and as extensions of the human
Press, 1999 body. The phrase decorative art refers inexactly to the totality
view to a symmetrical result.”17 The influence of such Classical
7 of 22 Architecture on Michelangelo provided the platform for the of human limb objects. A sculpture, and art work or a tapestry 8 of 22
is created through the hand for example, and is seen as an The introduction of modelling into architectural practice
extension of the limb which creates it. The human limb is a demonstrates the identity of sculpture and art in Michelangelo’s
22.Frampton, Kenneth. Le Corbusier, servant to the mind. “A good servant is discreet and self – work.
New York; Thames & Hudson Inc,
effacing in order to have his master free.”22 Understanding
a form in this organic way allows for the creation of a free Le Corbusier presents us with many sketches of

space which although still retains its obedience to form fails St. Peters in towards a new Architecture through which

to become dominated by symmetry, axes and geometry he presents his views of the terrible beauties which have

which still classifying it as dramatic. Le Corbusier understood befallen the sculpture of form. A caption beneath a sketch

Michelangelo’s approach to form as an organic element of plan states “The nave has been extended as shown by the

nature. Le Corbusier stated in 1955 that to make architecture shading; Michelangelo had something to say; it has all been

was to make a creature. destroyed.” The contamination of the original form of the dome
has altered the meaning and ‘place’ of the architecture. It is no
Early Renaissance theories of artistic proportion, longer intended as it was meant to have been. It is no longer a
when applied to buildings, produced architecture that was dramatic sculpture positioned in place. The facade is beautiful
abstract in its artistic sculptural form. Towards the end of in itself Le Corbusier states, but bears no relation to the
the 15th century architects and painters began to be more Dome. The real aim of the building was the Dome; it has been
concerned with three dimensional effects, particularly those hidden. The forms which Le Corbusier speaks of have become
produced by solid forms emphasized by gradations of light disjointed and unrelated. “The whole scheme was a complete 23. Le Corbusier. Towards a New
Architecture, London; Architectural
and shadow. It is questionable whether this abstract artistic unity; it grouped together elements of the noblest and richest
Press, 1927.
architecture produces a paper architecture which is more kind. The Portico, the cylinders, the square shapes, the drum,
successful on the drawing board or sketchbook than in the dome. The eye would have taken it as one thing. The rest fell
three dimensional realities. Michelangelo’s response to this into Barbarian hands, all was spoilt.”23 Form was spoilt.
architectural idea may be regarded as radical. While other
architects of the era such as Leonardo da Vinci based much
of their work on studies of form, mass and geometrical Plan of St. Peters in Rome within
which Le Corbusier puts forward his
mathematics, Michelangelo sought to go progress further to views regarding the “Barbarian” act
create a living organism based on his artistic study of the body. which deprives the form of its dignity
and meaning.
This is reflected in the later works of Le Corbusier who reforms
this architectural study of the body to create the modular
man representational of the ideology of Jeannerets work. In
Michelangelo’s drawings we can see how the concept of the
organic was put into practice. Initial studies for a building are
vigorous, doors and cornices may be seen as individual works
of art, rather than architectural details. They were intended to
convey to the mason a vivid experience rather than a calculated
measured instruction for carvings.

Michelangelo’s plan studies appear as organisms

capable of motion; they obey a biological rather than a
structural imperative. Michelangelo rarely made perspective
sketches, he hesitated to visualise buildings from a fixed point.
9 of 22 To study three dimensional effects he made clay models. 10 of 22
physical mass, it was a grammar and a language. The growth
Chapter Three
of a form relies on time and space. When presented with an
architectural job Le Corbusier allowed the matter to rest in
Le Corbusier his subconscious mind for a period of incubation. Le Corbusier
and Form states “one can only guess about the life of forms in the mind.”25 25. JR Curtis, William. Le Corbusier
Ideas and Form, London; Phaidon
The interiorized style of an artist’s subconscious is the means
Press Limited, 1986.
that allows him to select and refine while analysing a problem.
Le Corbusier’s drawings are highly condensed abstractions in
two dimensions of spatial experiences which he anticipated in 26. JR Curtis, William. Le Corbusier
Ideas and Form, London; Phaidon
four dimensions.26 Form for Le Corbusier was an active, volatile,
Press Limited, 1986.
living organism which animated the systems of a structure. In
‘Vers uns architecture’ he suggests that to fix a plan is to have
had ideas and that a good plan is an abstraction, a crystalline 27. JR Curtis, William. Le Corbusier
Ideas and Form, London; Phaidon
Towards a new architecture; Le Corbusier. Jeanneret expresses the poer and the drama of pure thought form, an emblem dense in meaning.27 This form which
Press Limited, 1986.
forms in the inclusion of the above images in his document. he speaks about relies upon a hierarchy of layers compressed
in a manner appropriate to its intentions. The forms of Le
Corbusier burst with an inner life. “To move through a Corbusier 28. JR Curtis, William. Le Corbusier
The portrayal of Michelangelo by Jeanneret in Ideas and Form, London; Phaidon
building is to sense how various schemes of order may give
Toward a New Architecture is significant in understanding Press Limited, 1986.
way to each other while still contributing to the dominant image
the artistic creative spirit which Le Corbusier possesses.
within.”28 Le Corbusier’s design process offers clues concerning
An architect or sculptor of Michelangelo’s understanding of
the geneses of forms.
dramatic architecture is undoubtedly a figurative and noble
ambassador for architecture of form. Michelangelo remains the Form was closely related to Le Corbusier’s personal
only singular artist or architect to be given prominence in this principals. Modern history has by choice perhaps left behind
historical document. Le Corbusier portrayed Michelangelo to Jeanneret’s ideas about social and political explorations which
be a sculptor of unquestionable intelligence and passion stating relate directly to his ‘style’ of architecture. Jeanneret moved to
there is no art without emotion, no emotion without passion in Paris in 1908 to progress his knowledge of the artistic forms of
Michelangelo’s regard. Le Corbusier aims to extract the drama architecture which were evident in the avant garde of the city.
of timeless forms which Michelangelo held in his morals and Having little or no exposure to movements such as Fauvism,
ideals. Cubism or Futurism Jeanneret was attracted by Art Nouveau
which combined an attention to modern materials with the
Throughout his career Le Corbusier sought instantly
abstraction of natural forms. Having secured a part time day
to anchor symbols appropriate to his age and its given
job with architect Auguste Perret, rationalism stressed the
techniques in a fundamental order that he had sensed in nature
primacy of structure in the generation of architectural form.
and in the great works of the past masters. Le Corbusier states
The basis of his studies relied upon the past. “The past was 29. JR Curtis, William. Le Corbusier
24. JR Curtis, William. Le Corbusier that “history was his only real master.”24 Perhaps the best way Ideas And Form, London; Phaidon
Ideas and Form, London; Phaidon
not to be imitated directly, but transformed at the level of
of understanding Le Corbusier’s formal influences may be in Press Limited. 1986.
Press Limited, 1986. underlying principles.”29 Perret had studied at the Ecole des
a quote from Eugene Viollet – le – Duc “The first condition of
Beaux – Art under Julien Guadet, as mentioned previous,
design is to know what we have to do; to know what we have
who had advocated classical examples and had implied that
to do is to have an idea; and to express that idea we must
the age old lessons of the tradition could be translated at an
have principles and a form.” Form refuses to be categorised
organisational level to modern means. In the Perrett offices
11 of 22 or anchored. For Le Corbusier form was not an isolated 12 of 22
structure was translated into art through an intuitive grasp
of Classical principles of organisation. While working for by Le Corbusier contained the sense of futility and the absurd.
Perret Jeanneret learned to think of concrete in terms of In 1942 Le Corbusier while in the Pyrenees picked up a piece
rectangular frames as opposed to a flexible material which of wood and a pebble which he found in a gutter. As he drew
could be controlled through framework and the form of the and redrew the objects blended together until what became
mould. Jeanneret was not worried about style alone; rather he known as the taureau was born. The Taureaux became an
was looking for guiding principles that might crystallize as later obsessive motif in Le Corbusier’s prints, paintings and drawings.
forms. Rationalism gave Le Corbusier a new perspective on At Chandigarh the bull shapes were abstracted into forms 32. JR Curtis, William. Le Corbusier
tradition, less concerned with ornamental detail than with the of architecture.32 Le Corbusier seems to have carried in his Ideas and Form, London; Phaidon
Press Limited, 1986.
anatomy of underlying post forms. The influence of art form in imagination certain formal configurations with a deep emotional
the architecture of Jeanneret can be traced to his enrolment appeal which could represent a variety of different subjects.
into an art history course at the Ecole des Beaux – Art where Artist Eduard Seckler states “Le Corbusier carries within 33. JR Curtis, William. Le Corbusier
Ideas and Form, London; Phaidon
he immersed himself in the past masters such as Michelangelo. himself and with himself ideas of a formal ‘plastique’ nature
Press Limited, 1986.
“He observed modern practices in the studio during the day – which go back fifteen, twenty years or more; they are drawings,
concrete posts, by night – slender iron columns of Labroustes sketches which fill drawers at his home and some of which
Bibliotheque and grappled with the question of industrialisation he takes on journeys. In this way contact is immediately re-
form with he makes reference to in his later work of Chindigarh established between a new stage and an earlier one.”33
which was deeply anchored in the industrial period in India for
example. Throughout his life Le Corbusier remained fascinated In 1944 Le Corbusier began collaborating with

by the architectural idea of objects within objects and in funnel Josef Savina, a Breton cabinet maker, which resulted in the

form. “Today I am accused of being a revolutionary. Yet I creation of bold polychrome wooden sculptures based on
30. JR Curtis, William. Le Corbusier
Ideas and Form, London; Phaidon confess to having had only one master – the past; and only one forms in paintings and drawings. The individual pieces were
Press Limited, 1986. carved roughly with the marks of the chisel left showing and
discipline – the study of the past.”30
collided together in random assemblages. Some sculptures
“Far higher than the material is the spiritual, far resembled organic plastic vegetables. Others appeared as
higher than function material and technique, stands form.” – Surrealist anatomical studies where organs were given varying
Theorist Werkbund Herman Muthesius states. In early October proportions and distortions. The ‘Ozon’ sculpture of 1946 was
1911 Le Corbusier travelled to Italy. At Pompeii he sketched in the shape of a distorted ear hanging towards the space
the forum, the house of the tragic poet and the house of the which gave it identity. Le Corbusier explained that he was
31. JR Curtis, William. Le Corbusier silver wedding. “Every artist finds his own antiquity in the houses “exploring the acoustic component in the domain of form.”34 34. JR Curtis, William. Le Corbusier
Ideas and Form, London; Phaidon Ideas and Form, London; Phaidon
at Pompeii.”31 Charles Edouard Jeanneret found domestic “This kind of sculpture belongs to what I have called acoustic
Press Limited, 1986. Press Limited, 1986.
archetypes that would profoundly influence his own ideas on plastic those are forms which transmit and listen at the same
houses. For Le Corbusier the word Classical was given a new time”35. These forms are similar to those found on the roof 35. Webber, Heidi. Le Corbusier –
vitality. Archaeological remains with grids of columns revealed scapes at Chandigarh and La Tourette. The rough surfaces The Artist, Zurich and Montreal.
an ancient system in which rhythm and plastic variation were of the sculpture influenced the bare crude concrete found in
created on the basis for standardisation. The geometry and Jeannerets later works.
Proportion found in the Pantheon, Colosseum and St. Peters
appealed to his architectural instincts. Le Corbusier made his first oil painting in 1918 aged
31. During the phase of this creative body of works which
The primitivism of Le Corbusier’s later forms had lasted until 1927 everyday items such as glasses, bottles,
been prepared in the 1930’s, however it was reinforced by books, pipes and violins are depicted exclusively. This period
his experiences in painting, sculpture, tapestry and mural of his work is referred to as Purism. No work by Le Corbusier
13 of 22 designs after World War II. The Ubu series of works created encapsulates more succinctly the iconic ethos of Purism 14 of 22
Le Corbusier study sketch for prepara- Nature morte a la pile d’assiesttes sketch
tion of the Ozon sculpture, 1920. by Le Corbusier.

that nature allows for the creation of pure organic forms.

Relationships exhibited between one element and another in
nature is a metaphor for the internal relationships which are
forged within a volume. However Le Corbusier states that good
architecture is based on logic and mathematics while in the
than his painting Nature morte a la pile d’assiesttes in 1920. same breath stating that architecture is based on the line of
As the picture type suggests (image below) Purism was a good art as stated previously. Art is the physical manifestation
celebration of industrialised forms and civilisation. Perhaps it of poetic nature while poetry is centred on the free and
is symbolic of finding himself when in 1927 after completing rambling train of thought condensed to create meaning in
such an artistic conclave that he then sought to use the an often abstract way. In this way perhaps logic and abstract
pseudonym Le Corbusier. The influence of art in the creation of artistic forms can co exist and become one. Leuder stated ‘I
architectural forms may be understood as a metaphor of light had the impression that he forged an immediate bond with the
bouncing off volumes. The form is given expression through landscape’. The landscape is seen as the giver of forms.
36. Webber, Heidi. Le Corbusier – light. Le Corbusier states “I think that if one has conceded any
The Artist, Zurich and Montreal. From the outset Le Corbusier imagined the shape
significance to my work of architecture and city designing, then
1988. of the chapel to be a culmination of both concave and convex
it is to this secretly kept work (the painting).”36
forms – organic forms related to both the body and the
Le Corbusiers own relationship with form was quite landscape. These forms were partially derived from the
specific and underestimated. One of his most sculptural realisation of such forms in the Ubu and Ozon series of artistic
architectural works is the Chapel of Notre Dame-du-Haut at sculptures which he had created in a seven year exploratory
Ronchamp. Perhaps it was the freedom of artistic creation period commencing in 1940. Such a form sought to respond
which was bestowed upon Le Corbusier which led to the to the visual acoustics of the landscape. The chapel consists of
present day sculpted mass at Ronchamp. Canon Lucien a white plastered mass which is sculpturally sculpted around
Ledeur insisted upon his artistic talents to be manifested in two contiguous concave fronts on both southern and eastern
architectural form. “This is not a lost cause; you will be given sides. On the north and west convex edges are used on the
15 of 22 free rein to create what you will.” It has been stated previously form. This plastic form is crowned by a beton brut roof which 16 of 22
cantilevers over the form below. The dramatic interior of the Sketch plan for Chardigrah, Le
volume is brought to life through the ever changing lighting Corbusier.

conditions which pierce the ‘plastic’ walls. The overall form

of the Ronchamp chapel seems to have been born out of the
plasticity of the organic.

Styles characterise cities, but styles exist is the

countryside as well perhaps best emphasised and noticed in
the characterised styles of churches. The style of Ronchamp
is perhaps best understood as a style of reinvention. This
reinvention is founded upon place and site. Ronchamp like
37. Norberg – Schulz, Christian. free standing forms are anchored in their ‘place’. “Styles are
Architecture; Presence, Language,
endowed with mobility”37. Ronchamp is free of movement
Place, Milano Italy; Skira Editore
S.P.A, 2000. apart from the nature of the combined volumes upon the site.
“Mobility distinguishes styles from vernacular architecture,
Chandigarh, an oasis of form, was one of Le
38. Norberg – Schulz, Christian. which is relatively static and confined to a ‘place’.”38 Dramatic
Corbusier’s later demonstrations of logical town planning
Architecture; Presence, Language, forms are vernacular forms without place, without time.
Place, Milano Italy; Skira Editore realised through architectural forms. Organic form was once
S.P.A, 2000. again the inspiration for much of Jeanneret’s work in designing
a new capital for the Punjab. While instead of observing an
individual building or volume as an organic form he expressed
the city itself as an organic entity set against the Himalayan
Chapel at Ronchamp, note the plastic- backdrop. He positioned the ‘most important’ buildings of
ity of the plan.
control or power on the north of the Punjab. “The capitol was 39. Frampton, Kenneth. Le Corbusier,
the head and the cultural institutions were the intellect.” 39 architect of the twentieth century.

Perhaps in the same metaphorical rational expressed by

Michelangelo the roads and other transport networks may be
understood as metaphors for the bodies circulation system.

The forms of the three primary structures which

the capitol was concerned with; the Assembly, the High Court
and the Secretariat, were all derived from the surrounding
landscape. The evidence of the influence of dramatic
architecture or primal forms is present in the location of the
three state volumes. The composition can be compared to
the Acropolis. In this way monumental structures are situated
according to auspicious alignments against the vast natural
backdrop. “The three honorific structures were distinguished
40. Frampton, Kenneth. Le Corbusier,
from each other through the use of large sculptural elements,
architect of the twentieth century.
the specific form of which Le Corbusier was to adduce from the
flora and fauna of the Indian landscape.”40

17 of 22 18 of 22
The sculpted forms of Michelangelo and Le
Sketch of the capitol showing the way
in which existing elements of the organic
Chapter Three
Corbusier to confine in the close dissection of their works are
informed the built form of Chandigarh.
key to understanding the relationship posed between both
artistic and architectural form. Both innovative leaders of
their period refused to be classified in words which implied Conclusion
a single specification such as artist, sculptor, and architect.
Michelangelo often claimed he was not an architect or painter
The architectural structure of the assembly is but foremost a sculptor of forms. While Jeanneret aimed to
relatively low in relation to the surrounding capitol buildings. convince that he relied upon all of the artistic and architectural
The form rises out of the earth in an organic artistic motion. classifications for his creative understanding. The opinion that
The dynamic roof profile of the volume creates a separation one identifying characteristic of one’s work cannot be realised
from the surrounding forms in a dynamic way. Positioned like without another, in the form of architectural forms or sculpture
individual sculptures on a platform the pyramid and plastic or indeed painting, is key to understanding the internal working
cylindrical volume perform functional uses in a dramatic fashion. space of form.
Similar to other such works by Le Corbusier the volume fails
to willingly become categorised in a ‘style’. The form speaks Dramatic architecture is timeless architecture.

more of a flattened artistic confluence of overlapping forms. Similarly to the dispositions of both Michelangelo and Jeanneret

The assembly is a painting. It is a sculpture, a realisation of both dramatic architecture refuses to be placed within a time

artistic and architectural sculpted form. bracket or constraint. Dramatic architecture of forms refuses
to be anchored in the past yet is fundamentally derived from
past experience. It provides a space which allows for the mind
to wander. The space is contained within the form yet is free
of the anchoring qualities of linear time. “To move through a 41. JR Curtis, William. Le Corbusier
Corbusier building is to sense how various schemes of order Ideas And Form, London; Phaidon
Press Limited. 1986.
may give way to each other while still contributing to the
dominant image within.”41 Dramatic architecture and art forms
refuse to be styled. They belong to no particular style. They are
their own creation, free of classification. Both Michelangelo
and Jeanneret were not architects of style or revolution but
rather men of reinvention. They belong in the world of volumes,
of space independent of objects or spaces through which
42. Le Corbusier. Towards a New
they find expression. “Architecture has nothing to do with the Architecture, London; Architectural
various styles”42. However to say that the Pyramids of Egypt Press, 1927.
or the Acropolis or the chapel at Ronchamp are timeless due
to their formal expression alone would create a disservice to
other buildings of similar forms. Dramatic forms exhibit a logic
which excites the mind yet the logic is concealed in the greater
manifestation of the form itself. The logic of axes, symmetry
and rationalisation which Guadet proposes is perhaps the
master generator preceding form. Plastic forms which rely
on surrounding context and landscape are seen as organic
19 of 22 representations of nature in constructed volumes. 20 of 22
The form in this way opposes to be controlled in a 1. The Architecture of Michelangelo, James S.
mathematical manner or geometrical logic but relies on its Ackerman.
context for expression and place. The chapel at Ronchamp
could not be understood as a form of its place if repositioned on 2. Classical Architecture; the Poetics of Order, A. Tzonis

a flat city terrain. and L. Lefaivre.

Dramatic architecture is related to vernacular 3. The Decorative Art of Today, Le Corbusier.

architecture, although both are classified and adorn

4. Le Corbusier Ideas and Form, William J R Curtis.
preconceived imagery and fail to be anchored in a given style
or time. Dramatic art is concerned wit place and presence. 5. Towards A New Architecture, Le Corbusier.
The marriage of dramatic art and architecture in the cases
of Michelangelo and Jeanneret are seen as the culmination of 6. The Modular, Le Corbusier.
thought of the mind exercised through the finished object as
7. Le Corbusier an analysis of form, Geoffrey H. Baker.
an extension of the limb. The body is the consideration of form.
Their work is based on the direct line of good art. The good art 8. Le Corbusier – The Artist, Heidi Webber.
of Le Corbusier and Michelangelo is free yet confined within its
43. Giedion, Architektur und Gemeinschaft, place. It is an art of reinvention for which others must strive, an 9. Le Corbusier, Kenneth Frampton.
Cambridge; Mass, 1948.
art of the most original things, as if nothing had yet been done.43
Architecture must reinvent itself before the intentions of the 10. Le Corbusier, architect of the twentieth century,

artist is lost. In the conclusion of form architecture must start Kenneth Frampton.

over again.
11. Le Corbusier the Noble Savage; Towards an
Archaeology of Modernism, Adolf Max Vogt.

12. Le Corbusier architect and feminist, Flora Samuel.

13. Le Corbusier & the architecture of reinvention, AA


14. Vitruvius; writing the body of Architecture, Indra Kagis


15. Elements of the Art in Architecture, William


16. Architecture; Presence, Language, Place, Christrian

Norberg – Schulz.

17. A Critic Writes; The Machine Aesthetic Banham.

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