Le Corbusier: A Life

The Corbusier in Nicholas Fox Weber’s Le Corbusier: A Life reminds of the Picasso of the first volume of John Richardson’s biography (A Life of Picasso: The Prodigy, 1881-1906); Weber’s picture of the young Charles-Édouard Jeanneret, the future Le Corbusier, is a little shocking.

Jeanneret is given to wild fluctuations of mood, proclaiming that his brick factory was on the cusp of making him millions, and then weeks later falling down a dark pit of despair; violently cursing Vienna and all things Viennese on one trip, and praising it to the stars on the next. But he knew this aspect of his character, and he sought to regulate himself, and his life, through his environment. In his youthful travels from his native Switzerland, the burgeoning architect was deeply affected by some unlikely buildings—the Carterhouse in the valley of Ema, outside of Florence, and the churches on Mount Athos, in Greece—and it’s this love that makes many things clear. Why the bare, white walls, the empty spaces dotted with isolated chairs? Why are there no couches? These are his gestures towards those monastic buildings, whose emptiness was therapeutic to him, and sacred. And the very occasional vases of flowers or bold, colourful paintings in Le Corbusier’s environments are the moments when the heights, but not the depths, of his enthusiasms were allowed to peek through.

First appeared on thewalrus.ca. Edited by Emily Keeler.