In this rare footage – filmed in Le Corbusier’s Paris apartment, the master talks about his work and the ‘ideal city’.
Le Corbusier’s still producing great projects. He is constantly travelling all over the world. But he lives surrounded by his paintings, sculptures, and drawings in a Paris studio flat he built himself in 1933.
“I speak so bit of English but I am obliged to take my paper to finish this speech. I am a young man of 71 years old. I am a visual man – a man working with eyes & hands animated by [UNCLEAR] manifestations. My research is like my feeling directed towards what is the principal value in the life – the poetry. Poetry is in the heart of man and is the capacity to go into the richness of nature.”
Le Corbusier’s most poetic vision which has inspired architects for three generations was the concept he calls the ‘Ville Radieuse’, a vision of an ideal city of which he has been building fragments ever since. His drawings show high flats floating in the air on their stilts, leaving the ground free for trees, people and grass. The motor roads are lifted like bridges above the ground for fast safe traffic to the office times. It is a city, above all, efficient – a simple, comfortable life where the machine is the servant of man. New York presents the same sort of image but Le Corbusier finds that even in New York like London, the buildings are too small, the roads too narrow, transport inefficient.
“They live there where they should not live, they walk where they should not walk. The actual programme is to find again the condition of nature and the answer is the [UNCLEAR]of today and tomorrow – the proper occupation of the land. My cities are green cities, my houses give sun, space & green.”
His great building, the Unité d’Habitation at Marseilles is a fragment of the ideal city – the green city, self-contained like a ship. 2000 people live there. It has a single entrance, huge lifts, internal streets and shops. Each family and their flat gets privacy, a view, sun and shade. Corbusier realised what he has called the possibilities of a good life where everything works – where the family can enjoy peace & quiet yet live close to other people. In his city, everything is used. The roofs are playgrounds, the sun penetrates everywhere, each flat looks out over trees. The Marseilles building has been a great success and the others like it are being planned in many places. This model is of the Unité d which is being built in Berlin. This is another variant of the same grand idea.
Le Corbusier has survived, Le Corbusier has always held to his vision of the ideal city – of the possibilities of the big scale of the 20th century and its promise for man. As he says, the first industrial era was an age of chaos, the second industrial era will be an era of harmony, and it’s only just beginning.