Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Le Corbusier - A Life

This is a terrific book, even though as it only arrived yesterday and I've only browsed it, well not quite just browsed it, but feverishly gone to the section on the Villa Sarabhai to see if I was right about Le Corbusier's toboggan (see early post). When you look at anything from a distance, your observations have a certain measure, but they are accentuated by the addition of more facts, or more gossip, and this book is thankfully full of both. Since I'd never been to Ahmedabad and only had the Ouvre Complet (1952-57) to hand, my speculations were mere speculations.
I didn't know that the Sarabhais were Jains, which means they would be not so much afraid of cobras as at one with them, and I didn't know that Mme Sarabhai's son indeed loved slides and was the inspiration for the toboggan. I was relieved to find out the villa suffered from water penetration, and not surprised to find that architect and client fell out rather spectacularly, and that the Sarabhais were every rich indeed; the kind of client Le Corbusier did best with, even though he rather forced them to pretend otherwise when he presented them with residences. This book is full of people Le Corbusier fell out with and very illuminating on his personal traits, which are hilarious.
Are these traits hilarious because we are at a distance from them? Is empathy with Le Corbusier as difficult as it might be with Brunelleschi? Well probably, but it should stop us trying. I just nearly fell off my chair as I read that on a particular encounter with a female journalist Le Corbusier refused to talk about his work, but remarked instead that they should go out. When it became clear they couldn't, he apparently said 'Pity, you are fat and I like my women fat!'
Now this is the sort of thing I like to read about my heroes.

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