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Le Corbusier, Orientalism, Colonialism

Author(s): Zeynep Çelik

Source: Assemblage, No. 17 (Apr., 1992), pp. 58-77
Published by: The MIT Press
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Zeynep (elik
Le Corbusier, Orientalism,

Zeynepgelik is AssociateProfessor of Le Corbusier'sfascinationwith Islamicarchitectureand ur-

at the NewJerseyInstitute
Architecture banism formsa continuing threadthroughouthis lengthy
of Technology.Sheis the authorof The career.The first,powerfulmanifestationof this lifelong in-
Remakingoflstanbul(University of terest is recordedin his 1911 travelnotes and sketchesfrom
WashingtonPress,1986) Displaying the "Orient"- an ambiguousplace,loosely alludingin
theOrient:Architectureof Islamat nineteenth- and earlytwentieth-centurydiscourseto the
Nineteenth-CenturyWorld's Fairs
of CaliforniaPress,1992). lands of Islamin the Middle East and North Africa,and in
(University Corbu'scase, solelyto Istanbuland westernAsia Minor.'
The formativerole of this voyaged'Orientfor Le Corbusieris
evident in his theoreticalworkand practicethereafter.2Refer-
ences to Islamicarchitectureand urbanformsappearin his
writingsas earlyas 1915 and spanhis numerouspublications,
among them L'Artdicoratifd'aujourd'hui(1925), La Ville
radieuse(1933), Quandles cathedralesetaient blanches
(1937), and Le Modulor(1949).3A numberof his earlyvillas,
such as the VillaJeanneret-Perret(1912), VillaFavre-Jacot
(1912), and VillaSchwob (1916), are inspiredby the Otto-
man houses in terms of their interiororganizationarounda
centralhall, their simple spaces,massing,and blankstreet
fagades.The Mediterraneanvernacularwith an Islamictouch
surfacessporadicallyin his built work- for example,in the
Weekend House (1935), the Roq and Rob project(1949),
and the Maison Jaoul(1956) - recordingits most memo-
rablemoment with the Notre Dame de Ronchamp(1950-
55), inspiredby the sculpturalmass of the Sidi Ibrahim
Mosque near El Ateuf in the Algeriancountryside.
In one episode of Le Corbusier'scareer,however,Islamno
1. LeCorbusier,Fathma, 1939 longeronly servesas a sourceof inspirationand reference,but


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assemblage 17

becomes a livingchallenge:his projectsforAlgiers,developed

between 1931 and 1942, attempt to establishan ambitious
dialoguewith Islamicculture,albeit within a confrontational
colonialframework.The most lyricalof Le Corbusier'surban
design schemes, these projectshave been discussedat length
by architecturalhistoriansof modernism.Yet, aside from
brief references,their colonialcontext and ideological
implicationsfor Frenchpolicies in Algeriahave remained
uninvestigated- a surprisingoversightgiven their raison
d'etre:the decision to renovatethe city in celebrationof the
centennial of Frenchoccupationand in preparationfor its
becoming the capitalof FrenchAfrica.4They have been ex-
plainedas a parableof Europeanmodernism,as a poetic
responseto the machine age, to syndicalism,and so forth,
and thus abstractedfrom the "politicalgeography"of colonial
Algeria.5Neither have the Algiersprojectsbeen analyzedas
partof Le Corbusier'sinfatuationwith Islamicculture,on
one side, shapedby the legacyof nineteenth-centuryFrench
discourseon the "Orient,"and on another,informedby the
Parisianavant-garde'spreoccupationwith the non-Western
2. CharlesBrouty,sketch of the Other in the 1920sand 1930s.6 To fill this lacuna in the
casbah, Algiers
extensive literatureon Le Corbusier,I will attempt to
readthe workof perhapsthe most controversialfigureof
modernismfrom a shifted perspectiveinformedby recent
Not surprisingly,architectureand urbanformsconstituted
the overridingtheme in Le Corbusier'sobservationsof other
cultures.Nevertheless,they wereaccompaniedby an inquiry
into the socialnorms,in particular,religiousand sexualones
- two of the three realmshistorianNorman Daniel defines
as havingcharacterizedIslamfor centuriesin Europeandis-
course.7It is my hope that an interconnectedanalysisof
Le Corbusier'sideas on these issues will providea compre-
hensive understandingof the architect'svision of Islamas
the Other and reveala new level of ideologicalcomplexity
within the Algiersprojects.
Le Corbusierundoubtedlyfirstencounteredthe "Orient"
throughliterature,travelaccounts,and paintings.Certain
popularauthors,among them Th ophile Gautierand Pierre
Loti, appeartime and againin his writings.Furthermore,the
3. Postcardview of Algiersand illustrationsin travelbooks must have shaped Le Corbusier's
its terraces expectations.His fascinationwith travelliteratureand its


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4. LeCorbusier,sketch of
Istanbulviewed from the sea

visualmedia is reflectedin his own work,for example,by his that connected the shoresof the city, thus findingsomething
use of CharlesBrouty'sdrawingsof the Algeriancasbahin of the mental image he had constructedback in Europe.In-
addition to postcardsin La Ville radieuse.8As will be dis- deed, Corbu surpassedthe formulasof Orientalistdescrip-
cussed later,the impact of the Orientalistschool of painting tions by readingthe urbanform analytically:he studied the
becomes apparentin relationto Le Corbusier'sstudies of carefulplacement of monuments in respectto topography
Eugene Delacroix'sLes Femmesd'Algerin the 1930s,but it that resultedin "summitsformedby reallyenormous
is manifestedearlierin Istanbulin his speculationsabout mosques"as well as their relationshipto each other in the
Islamicwomen and the privatelife of the Muslim family. calculatedcompositionof the skyline."
In a rerunof innumerabletravelaccounts, Le Corbusierfirst Like Istanbul,Algiersmakesa powerfulimpressionfrom the
viewed Istanbulfrom a boat in May 1911. "Thuswe did ap- sea - one that has also been recordedunfailinglyin travel
proachby sea,"he wrote, "likein old times, to watch all these literature.Theophile Gautierdescribedthe approach:
things unfold."9This was a strategycarefullyplannedby A whitishblur,cutintoa trapezium, anddottedwithsilversparkles
Corbu, in orderto be welcomed by an image alreadyformed - eachoneof thema countryhouse- beganto be drawnagainst
in his mind by everythinghe had read.Nineteenth-century thedarkhills:thisis Algiers,Al-Djezair,as theArabscallit. We
travelbooks on the Ottoman capitalfolloweda set pattern, aroundthetrapezium, twoocra-colored ravinesdefine
the opening pages describingthe strikingimpressionsof the theloweredgesof theslopes,andshimmerwithsucha livelylight
city from the sea, divided into three settlements by water, thattheyseemas thoughtheyarebedsto two suntorrents: these
with Istanbulon one side of the Golden Horn,Galataon the arethetrenches.Thewalls,strangelycrenellated, ascendtheheight
other, and Uskiidaryet fartherawayon the Asianbanksof of theslope.... Twopalmtreesandfourwindmillsstandoutin
the Bosphorus;they talkedat length about the harmonyof contrast:thepalmtree,symbolof thedesertandthepatriarchal
colors,the skylinedefined by domes and minarets,and the life; thewindmill,symbolof Europeandcivilization.
reflectionsof the built and naturalformson the water.To Le Algiersis builtas anamphitheater
on a steepslope,suchthatits
Corbusier,then, this was a familiarmoment, much rehearsed housesseemto havetheirfeeton theheadsof others.Nothingis
in his imagination.'0He knew what he wanted to see: strangerfortheFrencheye thanthissuperpositionof terracesin
thecolorof chalk.... Whenthedistancegetssmaller,we perceive
I wantStamboulto sit uponherGoldenHornall white,as rawas amidstthegeneralglaretheminaretof a mosque,thedomeof a sufi
chalk,andI wantlightto screechon thesurfacesof domeswhich convent,themassof a greatedifice,theKasbah.14
swell the heap of milky cubes, and minaretsshould thrustupward,
and the sky must be blue. ... Underthe brightlight, I want a city all Le Corbusier'sdrawingsand descriptionsof Algierssimilarly
white, but the green cypresses must be thereto punctuateit. All the move from distant views to innercity (echoingagainthe
blue of the sea shall reflect the blue of the sky." travelliterature).The architect'smain focus, however,was to
On that particular day, however, it rained, the sea turned show how his projectwould complement and enhance the
gray, the Golden Horn looked muddy, mosques dirty, and beauty of Algiers,whose "realface"would be a frontde mer
houses flimsy. When he landed on the shore, Corbu was in his proposalsas throughoutthe city'shistory."His essay
disappointedeven furtherby the cosmopolitanatmosphere Poe'siesurAlgerthus begins with an argumentabout reincor-
of the streets,"swarmingwith a crowdof Greeks,Germans, poratingpoetryinto urbanism,but followsimmediatelywith
and French,all that suspect blend of the Leventine."Yet the a descriptionof the city from the sea:
burdenof Orientalisttraditioncompelled him to partakein We arein Africa.Thissun,thisspacecreatedby azureandwater,
the collective passionexpressedby other Europeansbefore thisfoliagehaveformedtheset fortheactionsof Salambo,Scipion
him: "Ihad to workat it," he admitted, "andmost of all I andAnnibal,togetherwiththoseof Kheir-ed-dinn theBarbaresque.
wanted to love this place.""2
As witnessedby his numerous Thesea,thechainof theAtlasMountains, theslopesof Kabyleun-
sketches,Le Corbusieroften relivedthe experienceof fold theirbluedisplays.Theearthis red.Thevegetationconsistsof
viewingIstanbulfrom acrossthe sea on the commuter ferries palmtrees,eucalyptustrees,gumtrees,corkoaks,olive treesand


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assemblage 17

fig trees;theperfumes,
theconfinesof thehorizons,thesymphonyis imminent.... Build-
ingtheirCasbah,theTurks[sic]havecreateda masterpiece of
Elsewhere,Le Corbusierdescribedthe casbahas having
madethe site: "Thecasbahof Algiers... has given the name
Algiers-the-Whiteto this glitteringapparitionthat welcomes
at dawnthe boats arrivingto the port.Inscribedin the site, it
is irrefutable.It is in consonancewith nature.""
The aesthetic appealin the image of these two cities, created
by the powerfuldialoguebetween geographyand archi-
tecturalform,turnedthem into unique poems. In Istanbul
the poetryresidedin the "unforgettablespectacle"of the
urbanform,with the light coming frombehind and giving
5. LeCorbusier,sketch of the city a monolithic appearance."In Algiersthe qualityof
light reflectingon the buildingsand the landscapegave the
city its poetry,and complementingthe geography,the vegeta-
tion, and the perfumeof the air,createda "symphony."'9
Even in the earlystages of his career,for Le Corbusiergood
urbanismmeant formalunity. In Istanbulthis unity was
achievedby the modulardesign system that, followingan
"elementarygeometry,"underlaythe compositionof the
greatmosque complexes;cubic masses coveredby domes
acted as modules,being "centered,measured,and propor-
tioned in relationto the sanctuarythey belong to."20The in-
tegrityof the urbanform depended, therefore,on the cubic
elements, makingIstanbula masterpieceof urbanism,be-
cause, Le Corbusierstated, "greatarchitectureis cubic."2'
Two decadeslater, Le Corbusierobserveda similarunity in
Algeria,againbased on a module, the square-shapedcell.
6. Le Corbusier,sketch of He commented on the cellularorganizationof Ben-Isghem,
Ben-lsghem a town in Mzab, "What an order,what a decision, what a
sensible tool to the serviceof mankind."And he provided
an architecturalformulaforhappiness:22
thekey = thecell
= men
= happiness

Displayingthe historicfascinationof Europewith Islam,Le

Corbusierattempted to explainarchitecturaland urban
formsin terms of religiousbeliefs. Unversedin Muslim
philosophy,he recycledthe cliche that the Muslim religion


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7. Postcardof the Kaaba

::t::: :::1:
held an answerto all socioculturalquestions and in one short
--- .
.:. .i~iijj~_:_iis~ii-i1~
sentence arguedthat the unity of concept was due to the ~::::::::-:::
unity of religion.He consideredthis a most reasonableexpla-
nation because "Asia[was]foreverreligious"- an ahistorical
if widespreadreadingthat fixed the entire continent in some
ambiguousplace in the past. Then, repeatinganothercliche,
he suggestedthat the module was derivedfrom the nomadic
tent and "religionelevate[d] it to the infinite."23
Le Corbusier'ssole insightfulobservationon the relationship
between Muslim religionand built form might be found
in his globaldiagramfor the worldof Islam,that is, in his
discussionof the unity of religionas expressedin the physical
and symbolic"pull"of Mecca:"the orientationof the axis of
everymosque on Moslem soil towardthe blackstone of
Kaabais an awe-inspiringsymbolof the unity of faith."24 The
mihrabof everymosque was indeed "adoor to the Kaaba."25
Undoubtedly,Le Corbusier'sobsessionwith the Kaabaalso
derivedfrom its simple, cubic form,which he illustratedin La
Ville radieusewith a postcard,but which he had studied ear-
lier while sketchinga tile in the ValideMosque in Istanbul. 8. LeCorbusier,sketch of a tile
Le Corbusier'ssporadicnotes on Islam,otherwise,cannot in the Valide Mosque, Istanbul
be consideredas productsof deep thinkingand analytical
observation,but they revealthe young architect'sclaim to a
dispositionof superioritytowardother cultures.His choice
of wordsin these brief statements tells more perhapsthan
their subject. He thus referredin Istanbulto the Muslims'
"poignantmysticismbeforeAllah,"their "loudlaments ... in
the ritualrhythmsof worship,""theirsupplicationto the Un-
known, the mournfulcredo of their beautiful prayers,"and
"the swooningof their souls and those undulatingrecitalsof


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assemblage 17

all the muezzinson their minaretswhen they chant and call fabrics,his deliberatedeterminationin Algeriato turn away
the devoted to prayer."26His referenceto a performanceof from monumental architecturealtogethershouldbe under-
whirlingdervishes- a ritualtransformeddramaticallyin the stood in referenceto this discourse.
nineteenth centuryfor touristicconsumptionand one often
In IstanbulLe Corbusier'seye and pen had wanderedfrom
drawnand paintedby Europeanartists- evokesscenes that
the monuments to the side streetsdefined by blankgarden
extend the imagination:"We have attended a fieryreligious
serviceby whirlingDervishes,of which I will saynothing just walls,to the konaks,largemansionsthat he consideredarchi-
now because otherwiseI would neverfinish.""27 tecturalmasterpieces,to the simple houses. He rediscovered
the solitude of the residentialstreetsof Istanbulin Algeria,
Comparedto his curiosityin all aspectsof life in the where,again,the houses - althoughmuch differentin their
Ottoman capital,Le Corbusiermaintaineda markeddis- architecturalcharacter- were divorcedfrom the street.
tance from the local culturein Algiers.In partstemming "The [Algerian]streetis an anonymouscorridor,"he de-
from his mission to redesignthe city, his analyticalobserva- clared;life and poetryflourishedinside the house.32The nar-
tions werekeyedto vernacularurbanand architectural rowstreetsof the casbah,effectivelyshelteredfrom the sun
forms.He did not, as in Istanbul,indulge in speculations by the projectionsof the buildingsthat lined them, wereonly
about societyor religion,neitherdid he recordeyewitness public passagesand places to shop. Yet a "miracle"occurred
accounts of religiousrituals,althougha populistversionof when the door of an Arabhouse opened onto a lovelycourt-
Orientalistvocabularysurfacedeverynow and then in his yard,one or two storieshigh, surroundedby sculpted arches.
writings.28Le Corbusier'sreferencesto the religiousmonu- Here silence reigned."The street [was]abolished.""33 By ignor-
ments (the "high"art) of Algierswerebrief and within the ing the street,that "violentpassage,"the Arabhouse afforded
context of his own proposals.For example,he envisioned a life in coolness (fralcheur)and tranquility.Furthermore,
clearingthe areaaroundthe two mosques on the Place du Arabshad "conqueredthe view of the sea for everyhouse"
Gouvernementand returningthem to their originalcondi- by means of roof terracesthat "createda roof overthe city."
tion, sitting on a rockbase. The Marinequarterwould harbor The casbahthus became an "immensestairway,a tribunein-
"indigenousinstitutions"in a "vastensemble of new [and] vaded at night by millions of adorersof nature."Comparing
grandMuslim architecture,as monumental as it wouldbe the Arabcity to the European,the "adorablecourtyard"of
picturesque.'"29 the Arabhouse to the "sinistercourtyard"of the European
This detachment from monumental architecturein Algiers apartmentbuildings,the protectedpassagewaysto the
was connected to currentdebates among the Parisianintelli- "jumbledstreets,"Le Corbusierconcluded that "the 'civi-
live in
lized' live like ratsin holes,"whereas"the 'barbarians'
gentsia,especiallyaroundthe dialoguebetween ethnography
and surrealismin the 1920s.Questioning"reality"and solitude, in well-being."Juxtaposinghis own proposalfor the
d redentshousing in Algierswith the patternsofferedby the
searchingfor alternativesto local (European)customs and casbah,he summarizedthe lessons he had learned:"terraces,
truths, surrealistethnographershad turned to the non-
Western, abandoning,in the process,the distinctionbetween suspendedgardens,grandbaysopen to a landscapeof dreams
conqueredby height."34
"high"and "low"culture.3oInfluentialand rigorous,the de-
bate generateda new emphasison ethnography,as witnessed Westernizingtransformationsin Istanbul'sarchitectureand
by the extensiveliteraturefrom the 1920sand 1930s.Not urbanforms,a processthat had begun in the mid-nineteenth
surprisingly,the majorityof the fieldworkwas carriedout in century,createdmixed reactionsin the young Le Corbu-
the colonies, among them Algeria.31 Indigenoushouse forms sier.3The hybridand modernlook of Pera,a formerGenoese
and settlement patternsconstituted majortopics of interest settlement to the north of the Golden Horn, inhabited
to ethnographers;their publicationswere richlyillustrated mostly by Europeansand non-MuslimOttoman minorities
with examplesfrom vernaculararchitecture,analyzedin in the nineteenth and earlytwentieth centuries,intrigued
terms of dailylife and rituals.Although Le Corbusierhad him as "acompressedcity with the allureof New York"
alwaysdisplayeda criticalsensitivityto vernacularformsand whose buildings"thrustupwardlike dominoes,.., nothing


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- : .. 10. LeCorbusier,sketch of Pera

Westernization."The catastrophethat will inevitablyruin

Istanbul [is] the advent of modern times," he wrote. "Stam-
boul will die. The reasonis that she is alwaysburningand
being rebuilt,"he continued, diagnosingcorrectlya main
factorbehind the fast pace of Istanbul'stransformation.He
attributedthe poor qualityof the new architecturein the
neighborhoodsclearedby fires to the inabilityof European
companies (especiallythe Germanones) commissioned to
do the work."Another loss was the "majesticcoat of white-
wash"in mosque interiorsto the "ignominyof repugnant
9. Le Corbusier,sketch and revoltingpainted ornamentation"- the signatureof the
comparingthe European Young Turks,accordingto Le Corbusier."3 While the connec-
city with the Arab city tion between political reformagendasand painted decoration
is far-fetched,Corbu'scritique was broader;he aimed at the
turn-of-the-centuryOttoman adoption of Europeanfashions
soften[ing] the severityof [their]height."Perawas "beautiful that, in orderto replacethe purity (the modernity)of local
and imposing."36Other Europeanshad, of course,lamented historicalforms, disguisedthese truly "modern"forms behind
the Westernized appearanceof Galataas not fitting into an masks of decoration.In 1925, back in Paris,Le Corbusier
Orientalimagery.Gautier,for example,had noted these condemned the modernizationprogramsof the new Turkish
apartmentbuildingsas negativedevelopments: republicthat had succeeded the Ottoman Empireby refer-
Someuglyhouses,of six andsevenstories,linetheroadon one ring again to whitewash:"Andalreadytoday we have Ankara,
and the monument to Mustapha-Kemal!Events move fast.
side,andrejoicea superbview,of whichtheyarequiteunworthy.
It is truethatthesehousespassforthebestin Constantinople and The die is cast: one more centuries-oldcivilizationgoes to
thatPerais proudof them- judgingthem(rightly)as fit to figure ruin. No more whitewashin Turkeyfor a long time to
honorablyat Marseillesor Barcelona,or even Paris;for theyare, come!"0
in fact,of anuglinessthemostcivilizedandmodem.37
Le Corbusierexpressedsimilarsentiments about the destruc-
Elsewhere,Le Corbusierechoed those Europeanswho de- tion of Algiers,for which he blamed the Frenchinterventions.
plored the destructionof the old city by modernizationand "Thelast fifty yearsof Europeancolonization,"he argued


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assemblage 17

in 1942, "abolishedwithout any regretsthe naturalrichness prominentengineerworkingfor the city of Algiers,arguedin

and petrifiedthe new city into a desertwith its crowded 1933 that the city must be renovatedby means of a "sanear-
houses leaning onto noisy streets."4'Likethe cities of Europe chitecture,followingAryantraditions,"because of "itsposi-
and America,Algiershad sickened,for it had been torn of tion on the axis of France."46 Furthermore,Le Corbusier's
its poetryby the engineers.42Nonetheless, Le Corbusierre- sketches depict the idea of la grandeFrance,which stemmed
spected the originalachievementsof the Frenchcolonial from an "imperial"Frenchdoctrineand a colonialconscious-
oeuvreand creditedthe firstsix decadesof Frenchrulewith ness developedin 1930, and which culminatedin the Co-
good urbanism.He had alreadyclarifiedhis standpointin La lonial Expositionof 1931.47As Paul Reynaud,Ministerof
Ville radieuse,where,includinga plan that indicatedthe first Colonies, expressedat the time, "the essentialaim of the Ex-
interventions(the Placed'Armesand the main east-westar- position is to give the Frenchpeople consciousnessof their
tery), he expressedhis admirationof the earlycolonial urban- Empire.... Everyoneamong us must feel he is a citizen of
ism: "Themilitaryrulersof the conquest knewhow to make the greatestFrance [la plus grandeFrance]that expandsto
beautifulcity plans.They knewhow to urbanize."43 While Le five partsof the world."48
Corbusier'sscheme to obtain the commissionby associating
Given Le Corbusier'sloyaltyto the idea of la grandeFrance
the currentadministrationwith the glorifiedconquerorsis
and to Frenchrule in Algeria,it makessense to analyzehis
quite transparentin this statement made on the centennial
of the occupation,his repetitionof the same theme in vari- projectswithin the frameworkof colonial planningtraditions
in the earlierpartof the century.In the historyof French
ous contexts reflectshis firm supportof Frenchcolonialpoli-
colonial urbanism,the name of Hubert Lyautey,governor-
cies. Celebratingthe missioncivilisatricein Morocco,he
generalof Moroccofrom 1912 to 1925, standsout. Underthe
praisedthe instruction,loyalty,and justicebroughtby the rule of MarshalLyauteyand the supervisionof the architect
French,as well as the networkof roadsand the cities they HenriProst,Francehad undertakenextensive experimentsin
had built - all "signsof civilization."These achievements,
urbanplanningthat expandedRabat,Fez, and Casablanca
he argued,had createdan atmosphereof admiration,enthu-
accordingto a well-developedsocial strategy.Certainideas
siasm,and respectamong the Arabs: and passionsconnected Lyauteyand Prostto Le Corbusier.
TheArabdiscoveredhis educator,his instructor. He didnotbatan LikeCorbu,Prosthad visited Istanbulas a young man while
eyelidof doubt.Withtwohandsoutstretched, leavingall hishope- studyingat the academyin Rome, which he had convincedto
less deceitbehind,he loved,admired, thenewtimesand
understood finance a study of HagiaSophia- not as a monument in iso-
respected Francewith all his conviction. andurbanism
Architecture lation, but in its urbancontext. The historicaland cultural
canbe thegreateducator.44 richnessof the Ottoman capitalas well as its formalstructure
had indeed appealedto Prostand underlinedhis proposalfor
In accordancewith the colonialmission, Le Corbusier's
a restitutionprojectfor the neighborhoodaroundHagia
Algiers- the "Frenchcapitalof Africa,"the "headof French
Africa,"and the "phoenixof France... rebornout of the Sophia.49
ashes of the mother country"- would reinforceFrenchrule Lyauteyand Le Corbusiersharedan admirationfor the ver-
not only in Algeria,but throughoutthe entirecontinent.45 naculararchitectureof the IslamicMediterranean,which
The architectexpressedthis view passionatelyin his writings, reflectedon their implementationsand proposalsin the
but also in severaldrawingswherean axis originatingin the historicfabricsof the Arabcities they were involvedin, as
north continues into Africa,connecting France,from Le well as on their preferencefor modernistaesthetics. Lyautey
Havrevia Paristo Marseillesand acrossthe Mediterranean,to confirmedthe latter point clearly:"Islamgave me," he de-
Algiersand to Gao. Sketchesof skyscrapersindicate the cities claredin 1931, "ataste for greatwhite wallsand I could
along the axis, proposingthe unificationof greaterFrance almost claim to be one of the forerunnersof Le Corbusier."50
throughthe new architectureand urbanism.The notion of a Furthermore,Lyauteyand Le Corbusierboth believed in
geographicalaxis between Franceand Algierswas not unprec- the centralrole urbanismplayedin changingpeople'slives.
edented in colonialdiscourse;for example, Cotereau,a Lyautey'surbanismaimed to accommodatehis new colonial


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12, 13. LeCorbusier,

diagrammaticmaps showing
geographical axis between
Franceand Algiers

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11. Le Corbusier,plan showing

the first colonial interventions
in Algiers


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assemblage 17

order,based on diversity,where people of differentsocialand This majordifferencebetween the two culturesrequiredthe

culturalcircumstanceswould coexist. His widelyquoted separationof the indigenousfrom the Europeanpopulations
statement "Aconstructionsite is wortha battalion"meant in the city:
that city planningwould replacethe oldercolonialpolicies tallfagadesforstoresandhomes,installa-
based on militaryforce."1 The strongsocialengineering tionof waterandelectricityarenecessary,[allof] whichupsetthe
agenda in Le Corbusier'surbanism,especiallyin reference indigenouscitycompletely,makingthecustomary wayof life im-
to the new man of the machine age, is well known.Yet his possible.You knowhow jealousthe Muslim is of theintegrityof
understandingof diversity,which also seems to imply region- his privatelife;youarefamiliarwiththenarrowstreets,thefagades
alism and enablesus to understandthe Algiersprojectsbet- withoutopeningbehindwhichhidesthewholeof life, theterraces
ter, has remainedmore obscure.On the title page of La Ville uponwhichthelife of thefamilyspreadsoutandwhichmustthere-
radieuse,Le Corbusierdefined urbanplansas "the rational foreremainshelteredfromindiscreetlooks.56
and poetic monuments set up in the midst of contingencies":
Consequently,Lyauteymade the conservationof the Moroc-
"places,peoples,cultures,topographies,climates... only to can medinasone of his prioritiesin urbanplanning.He an-
be judgedas they relateto the entity - 'man."'The specific- nounced proudly,"Yes,in Morocco,and it is to our honor,
ity of some of these contingenciesin Algiers- the place, the we conserve.I would go a step further,we rescue.We wish
topography,the climate- surfacesin the unprecedented to conservein MoroccoBeauty- and it is not a negligible
lyricismof Le Corbusier'sAlgiersprojects.The other contin- thing."57Behindthese compassionatewords,nevertheless,lay
gencies- differentpeoples and cultures- help to explain an economic goal:the medinaswere essentialfor the develop-
the parallelsbetween Le Corbusier'sand Lyautey'surbanism ment of tourism,especiallyfor the romantictravelersand
in the colonies. artistswho would be eternallythankfulto Lyautey.58

The two principlesthat Lyauteyhad outlined for Prostat the The InternationalCongresson Urbanismin the Colonies,
outset of the latter'sarrivalin Moroccoin 1913 were,accord- held duringthe 1931 Colonial Expositionin Paris,recorded
ing to legend, to preservethe medinas in respectto the local the powerfulinfluence of Lyautey'sideas and practiceon the
cultureand aesthetics and to build new, moderncities for the new rulesof planningin the Frenchcolonies.Among the
Europeanpopulations.52 Both of these principlesunderliethe goalsof the congress,as listed by Prost,were "tourismand
structureof Le Corbusier'splansforAlgiers,leading to the conservationof old cities"and "protectionof landscapesand
separationof the Frenchfrom the indigenouspeople, a phe- historicmonuments";the "wishlist"of the participantsin-
nomenon JanetAbu-Lughodhas labeled "urbanapartheid" cluded a respectfor the beliefs, habits, and traditionsof vari-
in referenceto Moroccancities.53 ous racesand the creationof separatesettlements.59 By then,
the implementationof such principleshad alreadyexpanded
For Lyautey,the preservationof the Arabtown held several to other colonialcities. In Algiers,for example,the casbah
meanings,some emotional, some practical.Above all, he sa- was placedundera specialregimedestined to conserveits
voredthe aesthetic qualitiesof the Arabtown, its "charmand picturesquecharacterto promotetourism.60
poetry,"which he attributedto the sophisticationof the cul- LikeLyautey'sMoroccanmedinas, Le Corbusier'sAlgerian
ture.54To understandthe differencebetween this cultureand casbahwas "beautiful,""charming,"and "adorable"and it
the Europeanone was essentialto buildinga colonialpolicy
"never,no, nevermust be destroyed."61Its historicsigni-
that would endure: ficanceas the "placeof Europeanand Muslim life during
Thesecret... is theextendedhand,andnotthecondescending centuriesof picturesquestruggles"was held to be of greatin-
hand,buttheloyalhandshake betweenmanandman- in orderto Therefore,its historicaland aes-
terest for the entire world.62
understandeachother.... This[Arab]raceis notinferior,it is dif- thetic values,the vestigesof Araburbanismand architec-
ferent.Letus learnhowto understandtheirdifferencejustlikethey ture, shouldbe protectedto enhance the "gigantic"touristic
will understandthemfromtheirownside.55 potentialof Algiersforwesternand centralEurope.63 The


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problemof the casbahwas, however,an admittedlydifficult horizontalityof the formerinto a verticalelement. Repeating
one. This was mainlydue to overpopulationcausedby the the concept in his later plans,Corbuhimself emphasizedthe
influx of peasantsescapingthe miserableconditions in the essentialseparationof the two settlements:"Thisarterywill
countryside;the casbahshelteredfour to six times more be separatedentirelyfrom the indigenoustown, by means of
residentsthan it could contain, sometimes twenty persons a level difference."70
in a single room, accordingto Le Corbusier'sfigures.64
Le Corbusier'sdramaticsegregationof the casbahhas been
Algierswas to become the capitalof FrenchAfrica,the misery
of its Muslim populationhad to be addressed,the casbah commonly interpretedby architecturalhistoriansas a sym-
bolic gesture.Tafurisees in Corbu'streatmentof the casbah
"purified"and reorganized,its populationreduced.6
a "timelessmodel ... the metaphorof an ancient time,"
Le Corbusierthus proposedto preservethe uppercasbahin which is "foreignto time, foreignto the modern,indifferent
its integrity,while restrictingthe densities and interveningin These wordsfrom one of the most per-
to its destinies."71
the patternsof use, followingthe planningdecisions made ceptive historiansof our daybelong, paradoxically,to the
before him.66A numberof buildingswere to continue to Orientalisttraditionthat attributestimelessnessand a
function as residences,but others were to be convertedinto prehistoricalexistence to the Islamiccity, denying it change
centers of artsand craftsin orderto initiate an indigenous and processand accentuatingthe differencebetween the dy-
"renaissance."Indeed, an impressivenumberof new schools namism of the Europeanmodernand the stasisof the an-
and workshopswere establishedby the colonialauthoritiesin cient Muslim. No doubt, Le Corbusier'snew Algierswould
the 1920s and 1930sto develop local crafts- embroidery, have stood in sharpcontrastto the Muslim town, but his
leatherwork,metalwork,copperwork,woodwork,carpentry, readingof the casbahwas farmore complex than Tafurisug-
pottery,masonry,and decorativearts- with the goal of gests. Emphasizingits cosmopolitannatureand its fascinat-
increasingtheir commercialvalue.67The lowercasbah,on ing processof change, Le Corbusierpraisedthe casbahfor its
the other hand, would be expurgatedof its slums;only the houses that recordedthe "progressof styles,of periods,of his-
mansionswould be preserved,convertedinto specialized tory.'"72Nevertheless,the implicationsof the projectcarrythe
museums for the indigenousarts.Parksand gardenswould colonial premisesmuch fartherthan does Lyautey'swork:Le
replacethe areasclearedfrom the slums, but the existing Corbusier'splan establishesconstant visualsupervisionover
street networkwould be maintainedto link the high casbah the local populationand clearlymarksthe hierarchicalsocial
to the Marinequarterand to the harbor.68Followingthe orderonto the urbanimage, with the dominatingabove and
Moroccanprecedent,the Muslim residentsof Algierswould the dominatedbelow.73
be strictlyseparatedfrom the Europeans.
The colonial plannersenvisionedthe greenbelts as places
The policyof establishingseparatecities was carriedthrough where "contactand collaboration"between raceswould not
to such an extent that writteninto the wish list of the partici- be prohibited:they were the potentialsites for interaction.74
pants in the 1931 urbanismcongresswas the creationof a Le Corbusierassignedthis function to the startingpoint of
"greenbelt," sometimes referredto as cordonsanitaire(a his airbelt, the Marinequarter,between the casbahand the
term that recallsthe practiceof evacuatingEuropeansfrom streets of BabAzoun and its easternextension, Babel Oued.
epidemic-riddentowns in the Algeriancountrysideand Clearedand rebuiltwith larged redentsblocksover parksand
enforcingquarantineon local people).69 Le Corbusier gardens,harboringthe "businesscenter"and "civiccenter,"
reinterpretedthe idea of the greenbelt while wholeheartedly the quarterwould providethe link between the European
acknowledgingits necessity.In his Obus plan of 1932, for and the Arabcities. CertainArabinstitutions,such as offices,
example, a giant linearstructurethat connects the hillside shops, and meeting halls, would also be placedhere.75The
residencesfor Europeansto the cite d'affairesin the Marine location was most convenient for overlappingfunctions,
quarterformsa bridgeover the casbah,transformingthe because of its proximityto the port, its centralityin terms
sanitarygreenbelt into an airband and reversingthe of futuregrowth,and its significanceas a historicalaxis for


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assemblage 17

14-16. LeCorbusier,three views

of the Obus plans


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Arabs.76 At the time of Le Corbusier'sinvolvementin Algiers,

this crowdedquarter,occupied by residentsof diversenation-
alities, was the most problematicareafor the city admini-
strationdue to a lack of "materialand moralhygiene."77
Provisionshad alreadybeen made for its "destructionand
complete reconstruction.""Le Corbusier'scleansingwould
be urbanand social,at once providingfor controlledactivities
forArabsand racialcontact in an orderedenvironment.
Le Corbusier'sprojectswould thus endow the colonialad-
ministrationin Algierswith a new apparatusfor enhancingits
politicalpowerby means of an urbanorderthat facilitatedsu-
pervision.In addition,a militaristicsignallies in the curving
forms of the buildingcomplexes, emphasizedby the architect
himself in callingthe plan "Obus"in referenceto the trajec-
tory of an explodingshell. This is not a simple, light-hearted
metaphorand should not be dissociatedfrom its political
context, from the violent confrontationsbetween the French
armyand the local resistanceforcesduringthe one hundred
yearsof occupation.Curiouslyenough, the curvilinearforms
of Le Corbusier'sprojectrelateto anothermajoraspect of
Frenchcolonialismin Algeria:its obsessionwith Algerian
women. Undercolonial rule, the Europeanfascinationwith
Muslim women had led to controversialpolicies,among
them penetratingthe privacyof Muslim familylife by "liber- POES IE
ating"the women. Women were, for example, strongly
encouraged(and at times forced) to discardtheir veils-
perhapsthe most loaded symbolof Islam.The rationalewas
that if women were conquered,the core structureof this
unyieldingsociety would be destroyed,leading to its total
Le Corbusierhimself provokedthe associationbetween his 17. LeCorbusier,sketch for the
projectsand Algerianwomen by describingat length his en- cover of Podsiesur Alger
chantment with the women of the casbahand by likeningthe
city of Algiersto a female body:"Algiersdropsout of sight,"
he noted, viewingthe city from a boat leavingfor France
in 1934, "likea magnificentbody, supple-hippedand full-
breasted.... A body which could be revealedin all its mag-
nificence, throughthe judiciousinfluence of form and the
bold use of mathematicsto harmonizenaturaltopography
and human geometry."8s The cover sketch for Poe'siesurAlger
depicts a unicorn-headed (?), winged female body - supple-
hipped and full-breasted- (the city/poem?)caressedgently


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assemblage 17

18. LeCorbusier,sketch of
Turkishwomen, Istanbul

by a hand (the architect'shand?)againstthe skylineof new treasuresin burgundy,ebony silk . .. just as exquisite as Per-
Algiers.This type of analogy,which claims masteryover the sian cats,""charmingin their mysteriousblackveils, their dis-
feminized body of the colonized territory(in this case, quieting anonymityof identicalsilks,their hidden treasures
claimingthat its beauty can be reincarnatedthroughthe all alike.""4
architect'sintervention),is not unprecedentedin the French
The Muslim women of AlgiersrekindledCorbu'smemories
discourseon Algeria.One author,writingat the turn of the
of his youth, with all the associations.He now used the veil
century,calledAlgeria"awise and dangerousmistress,"but as a shorthandto denote the local culture.He includedveiled
one who "exudesa climate of caressesand torpor,"suggesting
women in his sketchesto highlightthe poetryand the duality
that controloverher mind and body was essential.81 Although of the city. But more, he also consistentlyrepresentedthe
the feminizationof the "Orient"is a common theme in Eu-
casbahas a veil in his diagrams,thus visuallyfeminizingthe
ropeandescriptionsand representationsof Islam,the blatant colonized Muslim society. He was, of course,neitherthe first
use of the wordmaftresseis specificto the colonies.
nor the last to do so; in 1933 LucienneFavre,a French
Le Corbusierwas immersedin the discoursethat attributed woman writer,had, for example, describedthe casbahas
a lascivioussexualityto Islamicculture.This was one of the "the vamp of North Africa,"bearinga "capriciousfeminine
attractionsthat had drawnhim to Istanbulin his youth. Re- charm"and a great"sexappeal."81
enactingthe scenes he had readof in books and had seen in Le Corbusier'sexperiencewith the women of the casbahcon-
paintingsand repeatinganotherfavoriteassociationbetween trastedwith the impenetrabledistancehe had encountered
prisonand palace,he fantasizedabout the life in the seraglio, in Istanbul.Now as an olderand more self-confidentman,
which would be filled with "divine,thrillingodalisques...
and one bearingthe psychologyof being Frenchin a colony,
[wearing]aroundtheir nakedanklesand arms ... solid gold he visited the brothels,sketchedwomen in the nude, and
rings... like serpents.Loadedwith gold and their nails claimed to have discoveredhere "the nobilityof the nude
painted in vermilion,they suffocatedfromwaitingso long in thanksto the plastic structureof certainfemales of the
their magnificentcages.""82The houses on the quiet streetsof
casbahunderthe intense but nuanced light of Algiers."86
Istanbulwere "perhaps... prisonsof odalisques,"evokingin
Jeande Maisonseul,who laterbecame the curatorof the
youngCorbu feelingsof "alightlypainful,melancholic,be- Museum of ModernArt in Algiersand who had accompa-
neficent poem.'83 nied Le Corbusieron his sight-seeingtrips,witnessedto his
The women of Istanbul,inaccessibleto Le Corbusier,in- astonishmentthe architect'spurchaseof popularpostcards,
triguedhis sense of mysteryfurtherwith their veils. He could "horrible... in rawcolors,pinksand greens,representing
barelymake out their eyes throughthe pieces of cloth that indigenesnues in an orientaldecor."87 Such postcards,depict-
enhanced their beauty:"innocenteyes of gazelles,"he ex- ing women in the public realm,in prisonsettings that were
claimed, "delicious."He was more ambivalentabout the long homes, involvedin "typical"ritualsand poses - all loaded
robes.At times he describedthe women in chadorsas "im- with sexualinnuendos- have been studied by postcolonial
pressivebats, with the folds of their capes framingtheir heads criticMalekAlloulaas expressionsof the Frenchman'sfanta-
and then fadingawayfrom their hips,"reminiscentof "those sies about the Algerianwoman."8In light of the previousdis-
fiends at the towersof Notre Dame";at others,as "hidden cussion, Le Corbusier'sappropriationof these public images


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19. LeCorbusier,sketch of the 20. LeCorbusier,sketch of the

waterfront, Algiers casbah, Algiers

21, 22. Le Corbusier,sketches of

Algerian women


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assemblage 17

bears some connection to his privatelife; nevertheless,he Notes 4. William Curtis, for example,
also reliedon them for models, in additionto his own in I am gratefulto the directorand the mentions the "blatantcolonialism"
situ sketches,in severalpaintings.One such paintingfrom staff of Fondation Le Corbusierfor of the project,but does not ar-
their assistanceand to the National ticulate it. See William Curtis,
1939,Fathma,displaystwo dominantthemes of colonial Endowment for the Humanities ModernArchitecturesince 1900
representationsof women in popularand "high"art. Here, fora travelgrantto Paris.Earlierver- (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.:Prentice
Fathma,the genericAlgerianwoman, sits on a roof terrace sions of this paperwere presentedat Hall, 1990), 209. MaryMcLeod pro-
vides a backgroundto the "assimila-
among a clutterof objects with an Islamicallure,revealing the Fine ArtsDepartment, Harvard
her double image:the veiled (the hidden, the mysterious) University(March1989), Society of tion" debate without situating Le
ArchitecturalHistoriansAnnual Corbusier'sprojectswithin the
and the nude (the prostitute,the conquered). context of colonial urbanism.See
Meeting in Montreal (April1989),
and the School of Architecture, MaryMcLeod, "LeCorbusierand
Anotherpaintingby Le Corbusier,Femmesd'Alger,is the Cornell University(April1990). I Algiers,"Oppositions 16-17 (1980):
55-85. It is particularlystrikingthat
productof a similarprocess.89 The storyof Femmesd'Alger, would like to thank HowardBurns,
which took its final form in 1938,has been told before,al- Oleg Grabar,Michael Hays,Alicia neo-MarxisthistorianManfredo
Kennedy,Neil Levine,MaryMcLeod, Tafuri does not once referto
though little has been made of its colonialistimplications.It GiilruNecipoglu-Kafadar, and Perry colonialism in his analysisof the
is thus worthwhileto note againthe close relationshipof this Winston fortheir comments and projects,which he calls "still un-
workto the architect'sAlgiersprojectsand the appropriation suggestionsat variousstages.The surpassedfrom the point of view
of the Muslim woman as a metaphor.With Femmesd'Alger, idea forthe topic originatedduring of both ideology and form."See
Le Corbusierreturnsto the centennialcelebrationsof the a conversationwith the late Spiro ManfredoTafuri,Architectureand
Frenchoccupationone more time: he refersdirectlyto Kostof.I rememberhim with deep Utopia:Design and Capitalist Devel-
gratitudeand affection. opment, trans. BarbaraLuigiaLa
Delacroix'sFemmesd'Algerof 1833, a paintingthat had Penta (Cambridge,Mass.:MIT
come to be regardedas a symbolof the conquest of Algeria. 1. See Le Corbusier, Journeyto Press, 1976), 125-36.
the East, trans. IvanZakni6 with
Nicole Pertuiset (Cambridge,Mass.: 5. I owe this interpretationto Said's
I have tried to show here that Le Corbusier'sAlgiersprojects
MIT Press, 1987). For an annotated critique of Albert Camus's critics.
were expressionsof the French"colonialconsensus,"which edition in Italian, see Giuliano See EdwardSaid, "Narrative,Geog-
developedfrom the common Frenchexperiencebased on a Gresleri,Le Corbusier:Viaggio in raphy,and Interpretation,"New Left
sharedperceptionof France'srole in contemporaryhistory, Oriente (Venice:Marsilio;Paris: Review 180 (1990): 88.
and which protectedthe French"economic,moral,and stra- Fondation Le Corbusier,1984).
6. Giuliano Gresleriand Sibel
The originalnotebooks have been
tegic" interestsin Algeria.90As such, they must be situated printed in facsimile as Le Voyage Bozdogan have written about Le
in a broadtime frame.They do not belong solelyto the d'Orient (Paris:Fondation Le
Corbusier'sdialogue with the East.
1930s and to modernism'sresponseto colonialism;they also Greslerifocuses on the impact of
Corbu's journeyon his professional
"speak"the idiom of other periods- nineteenth-century growth. See Giuliano Gresleri,
Orientalismas well as the colonialdiscourseof the firstde- 2. For a discussion of the impact of
the Turkishhouse on Le Corbusier's "Home-Ties- AdriftAbroad:The
cades of the twentieth century.Furthermore,these projects work,see PierrePinon, "LaMaison Oriental Journeyof CH. Jeanneret,"
epitomize a culminationof the long historyof Frenchinter- turque,"in Le Corbusier:Le Passe Daidalos 15 (March 1986): 102-11,
ventions "to represent,to inhabit,and to possess"a terri- a reactionpoetique,exhibition cata- and idem, "LesLeqonsdu voyage
logue (Paris:H6tel de Sully, 1988), d'Orient,"in Le Corbusieret la
tory.91Had Le Corbusier'sscheme been realized,it would 165-73. Mediterrande(Marseilles:Editions
have markedan appropriationof Algierssuch as no colonial Parentheses,Mus&ede Marseille,
plannerhad elsewhereever achieved.The comprehensive 3. In his notes from 1915 for a book 1987), 37-49. Bozdoganstudies
scale of the proposaland its aggressiveseizureof the city's on city building, Le Corbusiercited Corbu's sketches against the back-
the urbanform of Istanbulto ex- ground of Orientalism:abstracting
geographyfrom the coastlineto the mountainswould have Le Corbusierfrom his cultural in-
transformedthe urbanimage radically- the now minia- plain his concept of "unity."See Le
CorbusierSketchbooks,vol. 1, 1914- heritance, she frees him from the
turizedcasbaha symbolof the controlledexistence of the 1948 (Cambridge,Mass.:MIT Press; legacy of Orientalism. See Sibel
colonized people and their "different"culture,a constant New York:ArchitecturalHistory Bozdogan, "Journeyto the East,"
reminderof the powerof colonialism. Foundation, 1981), 6-7. Journalof ArchitecturalEducation


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41, no. 4 (1988): 38-45. Her position 20. Le Corbusier,Journeyto the setting are the eleventh-centuryEl- 36. Le Corbusier,Journeyto the
has been challenged by Richard East, 103. Kebirand the seventeenth-century East, 90.
Ingersoll,Journalof Architectural 21. Le CorbusierSketchbooks1:6. In El-Djedid. It is noteworthythat Le 37. Thdophile Gautier,
Education42, no. 4 (1989): 61. Corbusierdid not even mention
1915, to illustratethe concept of Constantinople(New York,1873),
them by name; nor was he intrigued
7. Daniel's third realm is power. See unity in city form, Le Corbusier 87.
Norman Daniel, Islam, Europe,and mentioned one other city, Isfahan. by their architecture.
38. Le Corbusier,Journeyto the
Empire(Edinburgh,1966), xvi. His other referenceswere to build- 30. For a discussion of ethnographic
East, 167.
8. Charles Broutyillustratedmany ings - to the interiorof the Cathe- surrealism,see JamesClifford, The
dral of Notre Dame in Paris,to other Predicamentof Culture:Twentieth- 39. Ibid., 100-103.
popularbooks on Algeria,among Gothic cathedralsand to the Egyp-
them Lucienne Favre'sTout CenturyEthnography,Literature, 40. Le Corbusier,The DecorativeArt
tian temples (the latter two unspeci- and Art (Cambridge,Mass.:ftarvard
l'inconnude la casbahd'Alger of Today,trans.James I. Dunnett
fied), to the exteriorof the Greek UniversityPress, 1988), 117-51.
(Algiers, 1933). Accordingto a letter (Cambridge,Mass.:MIT Press,
from Jean de Maisonseul to Samir temples, and to the mosque com-
31. The Mission Dakar-Djibouti, 1987), 190.
Rafem[sic],dated5 January1968, which took place between 1931
22. Le Corbusier,La Ville radieuse 41. Le Corbusier,PoesiesurAlger,
Brouty,a "verywell-known"figure and 1933, was the first large-scale
in the casbah, took Le Corbusier (Paris:Vincent, Freal, 1933; English 17.
expedition. For the link between
around the quarter (AlgiersFiles, Le trans., New York:Grossman Pub-
ethnographyand colonialism, see 42. Ibid., 11-13.
CorbusierArchives,Fondation Le lishers and Faber & Faber, 1967), Michel Leiris'simportantarticle
Corbusier,Paris,hereafterFLC). 230.
"L'Ethnographiedevant le colonial- 43. Le Corbusier,La Ville radieuse,
9. Le Corbusier,Journeyto the East, 23. Le CorbusierSketchbooks1:6-7. isme," Les Tempsmodernes6, no. 58
88. The association of Islamic monu- (August 1950): 357-74. Among eth- 44. Le Corbusier,Quand les
10. Le Corbusierwrote in a letter
ments with nomadic tents has been nographicstudies of Algeria,see M. cathe'dralesetaient blanches (Paris:
made before. Consider, for example, Goichon, La Vie femininedu Mzab: Editions Plon, 1937), 46-47.
to KarlOsthaus on 28 July 1911,
Viollet-le-Duc's argument that for Etude de sociologiemusulmane
"J'avaistant rev6de Constanti- Arabs"monuments were nothing (Paris:LibrairieOrientaliste, Paul
45. Le Corbusier,Poesie sur Alger,
nople" (quoted in Le Corbusier: but tents." See Eugene-Emmanuel Gauthier, 1927); Mathea Gaudry,La 38, 44.
Le Passea reactionpoetique, 162).
Viollet-le-Duc, preface to Jules Femmechaouia de l'Aurks(Paris: 46. Cotereau quoted in J. J. Deluz,
11. Le Corbusier,Journeyto the Bourgoin,Les Arts arabes (Paris, LibrairieOrientaliste, Paul L'Urbanismeet l'architectured'Alger
East, 85. 1873). Gauthier, 1928); and the workof (Algiers:Office des Publications
Therese Rivierein Fanny Colonna, Universitaires,1988), 12.
12. Ibid., 88. 24. Le Corbusier,Journeyto the
East, 104. Aurks/Algerie,1935-36: Photo-
13. Ibid., 90. 47. Raoul Girardet,L'Iddecoloniale
graphiesde TherdseRivibre(Paris:
25. Ibid., 100. Editions de la Maison des Sciences en France (Paris:Pluirel, 1972),
14. Theophile Gautier, Voyage
de l'Homme, 1987). A small group 176-99.
pittoresqueen Algirie, ed. Madeleine 26. Ibid., 95.
Cottin (1845; reprint,Geneva: of French women ethnographers 48. Quoted in ibid., 185. There was,
27. Ibid., 143. focused their studies on Algerian
LibrairieDroz, 1973), 179-80. nevertheless,a vocal opposition
28. For example, he referredto the women. to these policies by the French
15. Le Corbusier,letter to the Gov- builders of the casbah as "terrible
ernor of Algeria, 16 May 1942, FLC. 32. Le Corbusier,La Ville radieuse, Communist Partyand a group of Pa-
warriors,"who, paradoxically,en- risian intellectuals. Surrealistartists,
16. Le Corbusier,Poesie sur Alger joyed a joie de vivre and knew how writers,and poets - among them
(1950; facsimile reprint,Paris: to relax. See Le Corbusier,"Le Folk- 33. Le Corbusier,"Le Folkloreest Andre Breton, Paul Eluard,Louis
Fondation Le Corbusier, 1989), 16. lore est l'expressionfleurie des tradi- I'expressionfleurie des traditions," Aragon,and Yves Tanguy- named
tions," 32. 31. the concept of la grandeFrance
17. Le Corbusier,"Le Folkloreest
29. Le Corbusier,"Propositiond'un "intolerable"and, condemning the
l'expressionfleurie des traditions," 34. Le Corbusier,La Ville radieuse,
Voici la Francede ce mois 16 (June Plan Directeur d'Algeret de sa
230, 233 (Le Corbusier'semphasis). standpoint of the socialist partyin
r6gionpour aider aux travauxde la its acceptance of colonialism, ex-
1941): 31.
Commission du Plan de la Region 35. On nineteenth-century trans- plained their versionof the real goals
18. Le Corbusier,Journeyto the formations in Istanbul, see Zeynep of the exposition in May 1931 as
d'Algeret comme suite aila seance
East, 149. du 16 Juillet 1941,"FLC. The Qelik, The Remakingof Istanbul "nothingother than to give the citi-
19. Le Corbusier,Poesiesur Alger, two mosques that Le Corbusier (Seattle: Universityof Washington zens of the metropole the conscious-
16. proposed to returnto their original Press, 1986). ness of proprietors,which they will


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assemblage 17

need in orderto hear without flinch- Le Corbusierwas a strongcritic of 60. M. Pasquier-Bronde,"Alger,"in of Le Corbusier,"trans. Stephen
ing the echo of distant gunfires." Prost'surbanism.Previously,he ibid., 39, and Charles Montaland, Sartarelli,in The Le Corbusier
See "Ne visitez pas l'Exposition had fluctuated in his evaluationof "L'Urbanismeen Algerie,"in ibid., Archive,ed. H. Allen Brooks,32 vols.
Coloniale," in Tractssurrealisteset Prost'swork.As seen in his state- 51-52. (New York:Garland, 1982-84),
ddclarationscollectives,1922-1939, ment, quoted above, from Quand 61. Le Corbusier,La Ville radieuse,
vol. 1 (Paris:Le TerrainVague, les cathedralesetaient blanches,he 229. 72. Le Corbusier,"Le Folkloreest
1980), 194-95. In response to the praisedProst (if indirectly)on the
exposition, the surrealistartistsor- success of colonial urbanismin Mo- 62. Le Corbusier,letter to the Pre- 1'expressionfleurie des traditions,"
fect of Algiers, 18 May 1942, FLC. 32.
ganized an anticolonial exposition. rocco;however, in 1931, duringhis
See the forthcomingbook by visit to Fez, he noted that "Prost's 63. Le Corbusier,QuestionnaireC, 73. In the light of this discussion, I
Herman Lebovics,TrueFrance city planning is nothing but confu- 1931-35, FLC; idem, note for M. must referonce again to Tafuri's
(Ithaca:Cornell UniversityPress, sion" ("Sketchbook:Espagne// Sabatier,6 May 1941, FLC;and analysisthat sees in Le Corbusier's
1992), chap. 2. Route 3 lb//B7," in Le Corbusier idem, La Ville radieuse,244. megastructuresinto which residents
49. While in Istanbul, Le Corbusier, Sketchbooks1:440). could insert their choice of buildings
64. Le Corbusier,"Le Folkloreest
too, had carefullystudied Hagia 50. Quoted in Jean-ClaudeVigato, "the greatest liberty"allowed to the
l'expressionfleurie des traditions,"
Sophia. Yet he did not share Prost's "The Architectureof the Colonial 30. public (Tafuri,Architectureand Uto-
enthusiasm for the Byzantinehis- Exhibitions in France,"Daidalos 15 pia, 131). While this observationis
65. Le Corbusier,note for M. valid as far as the Europeanpublic
tory of the city, which he considered (March 1986): 28-29.
Sabatier,and idem, "Proposition in Algiersis concerned, it is disturb-
"imperiallycorrupt"and which he 51. On Lyauteyin Morocco, see
believed "could not be brought to d'un Plan Directeur." ing that Tafuridismisses the city's
Paul Rabinow,FrenchModern: Muslim population as a nonentity.
life" because "its spirit [had] de- 66. The conservationof the upper
Normsand Formsof the Social Envi-
parted from the veryfew stones that ronment(Cambridge,Mass.:MIT
casbah and the transformationof 74. Prost, "Rapportgeneral,"22.
remain[ed]" (Le Corbusier,Journey the lower casbah into a "museum
to the East, 89). Henri Prost re- Press, 1989), 277-319; JanetAbu- 75. Le Corbusier,"Note financiere
quarter"were matters decided by
turned to Istanbulin 1934, when Lughod, Rabat: UrbanApartheidin then. See Rene Lespes, "LesVilles," annexe au ProjetC de l'urbanisation
Morocco(Princeton:Princeton Uni- du Quartierde la MarineAiAlger,"
the Turkishgovernment commis- in Les Arts et la techniquemoderne
sioned him with the master plan for versityPress, 1980), 131-73; and en Algerie1937 (Algiers,1937), 1934, FLC.
the city. He workedthere from 1937 GwendolynWright, The Politics of 25-26.
UrbanDesign in FrenchColonial 76. Le Corbusier,Questionnaire B,
to 1951 and his plan was largely
Urbanism(Chicago:Universityof 67. See Montaland,"L'Urbanisme 1931-35, FLC.
implemented. On Prost,see en Algerie,"51, and Pourle paysan
L'Oeuvred'HenriProst:Architecteet Chicago Press, 1991), 85-160. 77. Joseph Sintes, "Le Quartierde la
et l'artisanindiganes(Algiers:
urbaniste(Paris:Academie d'archi- 52. Rabinow,FrenchModern,288. Marineet la Casbah,"Les Travaux
Gouvernement Ge6nralde l'Algerie,
tecture, 1960), and Jean Royer, Direction Generaldes Affaires nord-africains,31 December 1932.
53. See Abu-Lughod,Rabat.
Urbanisme88 (1965): 3-31. During 54. Quoted in ibid., 141. Indiganeset des Territoiresdu Sud, 78. Lespis, "LesVilles," 10-11.
Servicede l'Economie Sociale
approximatelythe same years,from 55. Quoted in Daniel, Islam,Eu- 79. One of the most memorable,if
Indigane, 1939), 140-41. To hasten
1939 to 1949, Le Corbusierwas in- sentimental, essayson the topic was
rope,and Empire,489. the pace and increaseproduction
volved on and off in a rockyprocess written by Frantz Fanon, who traced
56. Quoted in Abu-Lughod,Rabat, and to providemore "precision"
of developing a master plan for the the origins of this policy to the early
143. to the work,these schools and work-
city of Izmir,which he completed 1930s. See Frantz Fanon, "Algeria
shops promoted the use of modern
in 1949, but which remained 57. Ibid., 142. Unveiled,"in A Dying Colonialism,
unimplemented. Originally,in trans. Haakon Chevalier (New York:
58. HenriProst,"LeD6veloppement 68. Le Corbusier,"Propositiond'un Grove Press, 1965), 35-67 (first pub-
1928, Prosthad designed a plan for
de l'urbanismedans le protectorat Plan Directeur." lished in 1959 as L'Ancinq de la
Izmir,but Corbu was able to per-
suade the authorities to substitute du Maroc,de 1914 A 1923,"in Jean revolutionalgerienne).
69. Prost, "Rapportgeneral,"22.
Prost'splan with his own. See the Royer,ed., L'Urbanisme auxcolonies
Also see Abu-Lughod,Rabat, 145. 80. Le Corbusier,La Ville radieuse,
et dans les pays tropicaux,vol. 1 (La
correspondencebetween Le Cor- 70. Le Corbusier,"Propositiond'un 260.
busier and the French Ambassador Charit&-sur-Loire: Delayance,1932),
60, 68. Plan Directeur."
to Ankara,14 February1939, 23 81. J. Lorrain,Heuresd'Afrique
February1939, 9 March 1939, and 59. Henri Prost, "Rapportgeneral," 71. ManfredoTafuri, "'Machineet (1899),quotedin Yvonne
30 January1940, FLC. By this time, in ibid., 21-22. memoire':The City in the Work Knibiehlerand Regine Goutalier,La


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Femmeau tempsdes colonies (Paris: Wlad Godzich (Minneapolis:Uni-

Editions Stock, 1985), 40. versityof Minnesota Press, 1986).
82. Le Corbusier,Journeyto the 89. Von Moos, "Le Corbusieras
East, 83. Painter,"92-93.
83. Ibid., 94. 90. Tony Smith develops the no-
tion of "colonialconsensus" in The
84. Ibid., 125, 128-30.
FrenchStake in Algeria, 1945-1962
85. Favre,Tout l'inconnude la (Ithaca:Cornell UniversityPress,
casbahd'Alger,10 ("sexappeal"is 1978), 28-29.
English in the original). 91. I have borrowedthese terms
86. Quoted in SamirRafi, "Le from Said'sanalysisof the appro-
Corbusieret 'Les Femmes d'Alger,"' priationof the geographyof Algeria
Revued'histoireet de civilisation in Albert Camus's fiction. See
du Maghreb(January1968): 52. Said, "Narrative,Geography,and
Prostitutionwas rampantin the Interpretation,"88-90.
casbah, a phenomenon attributed to
French encouragement. See David
Gordon, Womenof Algeria:An Essay FigureCredits
on Change (Cambridge,Mass.: 1. Le Corbusierpeintre,exhibition
tHarvard UniversityPress, 1968), 42. catalogue (Basel:Galerie Beyeler,
Accordingto Favre,in the early 1971).
1930s there were five to six hundred 2, 3, 6,7, 9, 11, 14-16. Le
"girls... permanentlyactive"in Corbusier,La Ville radieuse(Paris:
the casbah, especially in the lower Vincent, Freal, 1933).
casbah (Favre,Tout l'inconnude la
casbah d'Alger,103). The presence 4, 5, 8, 10, 18. Le Corbusier,
of the brothels was so overwhelming Journeyto the East, trans. Ivan
ZakniCwith Nicole Pertuiset
that, not to be confused with them,
many families residing in the quar- (Cambridge,Mass.:MIT Press,
ter posted signs declaring"honest 1987).
home" [maisonhonnete];others 12, 13, 17, 20. Le Corbusier,Poesie
dressed their daughtersa la sur Alger (1950; facsimile reprint,
frangaiseso that they would not Paris:Fondation Le Corbusier,
be bothered on the streets of the 1989).
casbah. See Sintes, "Le Quartier
19. Le CorbusierSketchbooks,vol.
de la Marineet la Casbah."
1, 1914-1948 (Cambridge,Mass.:
87. De Maisonseul, letter to Rafem, MIT Press;New York:Architec-
5 January1968. This document was tural History Foundation, 1981).
first discussed by Rafi himself in "Le
21, 22. Fondation Le Corbusier.
Corbusieret 'Les Femmes d'Alger,"'
51-52, and then by Stanislausvon
Moos, "Le Corbusieras Painter,"
trans.Jane O. Newman and John H.
Smith, Oppositions 19-20 (Winter-
Spring 1980): 89-91. The postcard
collection is at the Fondation Le
88. See MalekAloulla, The Colonial.
Harem,trans. MyrnaGodzich and


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