Swiss architect Le Corbusier pursued 20 years of thorough research in order to find the perfect scale of proportions. The outcome was a sceme called Modulor, presented in 1944, a concept of high importance to his innovative work that went on to become a crucial tool for many an architect.
The name combines ‘module’ and ‘or’ (gold in French), and puts Man at the heart of architecture: echoing Leonardo da Vinci’s ‘Vitruvian Man’, the human body becomes the primary unit of measure for construction. By creating a measuring unit for the individual within architecture, Le Corbusier sought to redefine spatial composition and establish a lasting harmony between man’s morphology and his environment.
For this exhibition, the Centre Pompidou is using Le Corbusier’s reflections on the body and its movements to put together a retrospective of his work and duly pay homage to this man who is, still, a primary symbol of modern architecture of the 20th century. The show is based on a chronology structured by the main stages of this new aesthetic concept offering a fresh journey through Le Corbusier’s work.
Here the body is “seeing” and “cognitive”, and we get a consistent picture of all the thinking that went into his painted, sculpted and architectural output. The modernist Le Corbusier who created Purist architecture is often pitted against the post-war Le Corbusier, the exponent of a concrete Brutalism and more organic forms. But the exhibition shows how his entire approach was in fact totally seamless.
One section of the exhibition is dedicated to the review and the first villas built as manifestos. With the Pavillon de l’Esprit Nouveau designed for the 1925 International Exhibition of Decorative Arts, Le Corbusier gave shape to a cognitive space simultaneously defining the pictorial space, the “living” space, the harmony of the architectural compositions and the comprehension of the urban sphere. Also painting is on focus: during the 1930s, Le Corbusier divided each working day between painting and architecture, and carried out systematic research on bodies: women’s bodies distorted and recomposed as new figures, the morphogenesis of bodies deployed in a series of paintings and sketches that culminated in the mural in Badovici’s house in Vézelay (1936), presented to the public for the first time in this exhibition.