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The City of Organic Regularity

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Abstract

This chapter examines the work of Le Corbusier, an individual famously associated with the use of science in urban planning. Through a deep reading of two of his works it aims to provide examples of the naturalistic logics that Le Corbusier used for justifying his plans for a radical re-planning of cities. I argue that in line with modernists at the time Le Corbusier conceived of life and biology as a machine, taking this concept and mapping it onto the city. I conclude by pointing out the blind-spots in his approach, identifying the ways in which his plans were radical and how his naturalism followed precedents described in previous chapters.

Keywords

  • Le Corbusier
  • modernism
  • health and urbanism
  • Eugenics

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Notes

  1. 1.

    (Jouhanneau 2015); aboard the SS Patris in 1933 he proclaimed that the aims of the Congrès Internationale d’Architecture Moderne that he had helped to found in 1928 represented nothing less than a ‘biology of the world’ (Mumford 2002, 79).

  2. 2.

    Le Corbusier (1935, 121).

  3. 3.

    Le Corbusier (1929, 170).

  4. 4.

    Navarro (2011).

  5. 5.

    Scott (1998, 139).

  6. 6.

    Le Corbusier (1929, viii).

  7. 7.

    Hence the seemingly contradictory expression ‘organic regularity’ (Le Corbusier 1935, 168).

  8. 8.

    Nonetheless, the use of nature in his work has been covered elsewhere: Emma Dummett’s work provides an excellent overview of his approaches to nature (Dummett 2008). More specific observations are available in López-Durán (2018).

  9. 9.

    As Dummett (2008, 30) notes he was influenced by works that analysed the mathematical properties of nature, albeit without the assistance of an understanding of fractals, chaos theory and complexity.

  10. 10.

    As Peter Hall noted, Le Corbusier’s work is rarely read because it is unreadable (Hall 2014, Chap. 7) and the LVR (1935) is no exception. A seemingly random and disarming juxtaposition of speeches, sketches, asides, plans and manifestos produced at different times during the late 1920s and early 30s. Yet, it is justifiably regarded as a landmark because some of the elements of the design that it introduces (flat roofs, bridges for pedestrians, pilotis, towers in a sea of lawn, green roofs) were raised to iconic status in the design of post-War housing projects.

  11. 11.

    One of the obsessions of modernity: López-Durán (2018, 151).

  12. 12.

    A similar remark exists on p. 155 of LVR ‘Un tel sujet n’est plus strictement professionel; il envahit le terrain sociologique. Ma particularité, dans cette affaire, sera de n’avoir jamais voulu quitter le terrain biologique et psychologique: un homme devant moi’ emphasis in the original.

  13. 13.

    see chapter Urban Social Hygiene.

  14. 14.

    Le Corbusier (1935, 8–9).

  15. 15.

    Le Corbusier (1935, 29).

  16. 16.

    Mumford (2002, 79).

  17. 17.

    See Déclaration Château de la Sarraz 28 Juin, 1928 (Le Corbusier 1935, 28).

  18. 18.

    Le Corbusier (1935, 36).

  19. 19.

    Le Corbusier (1935, 29).

  20. 20.

    Le Corbusier (1935, 48).

  21. 21.

    Le Corbusier (1935, 143).

  22. 22.

    e.g. Le Corbusier (1935, 139).

  23. 23.

    Le Corbusier (1935, 22).

  24. 24.

    e.g. Le Corbusier (1935, 30).

  25. 25.

    e.g. the mechanistic view of the inside functioning of bodies, most famously portrayed in the diagrams of Fritz Kahn (1888–1968) such as the diagram of man as an industrial palace Der Mensch als Industriepalast (1926) (Gandy 2014, 10).

  26. 26.

    Le Corbusier (1935, 40).

  27. 27.

    Langer (1984), especially since this was a trope that had been in use since the nineteenth century see chapter A City for ’Natural Man’.

  28. 28.

    Le Corbusier and de Pierrefeu (1942).

  29. 29.

    Le Corbusier and de Pierrefeu (1942, 144–146).

  30. 30.

    Le Corbusier and de Pierrefeu (1942, 174).

  31. 31.

    see Chapter Urban Social Hygiene.

  32. 32.

    Dubreuil (1935, 131).

  33. 33.

    While worker housing was included in all of his designs, Le Corbusier wastes little time writing about these. Instead, his residents were imagined to be middle class and bourgeois individual (Hall 2014, Chap. 7) or even elite members of society.

  34. 34.

    Le Corbusier (1935, 24).

  35. 35.

    Le Corbusier (1935, 137).

  36. 36.

    For example becoming one of the off-plan owners of an apartment in the block that Le Corbusier designed with Pierre Jeanneret in 1931 at rue Nungesser et Coli in Paris (Sbriglio et al. 1996, 73).

  37. 37.

    Cited in (López-Durán 2018, 172).

  38. 38.

    Winter (1922b, 1677).

  39. 39.

    Winter (1922b, 1675).

  40. 40.

    Winter (1922c, 1952).

  41. 41.

    Winter (1922a, 1769).

  42. 42.

    Winter (1922a).

  43. 43.

    See López-Durán (2018, 150).

  44. 44.

    As shown in the use of his ‘Open Hand Monument’ that symbolises the hand as giving and taking; peace and prosperity and the unity of mankind (López-Durán 2018, 188). See also Brott (2017).

  45. 45.

    Scott (1998, 103).

  46. 46.

    Van Acker (2011, 315).

  47. 47.

    Shoshkes (2016, 3).

  48. 48.

    Shoshkes (2016, 93).

  49. 49.

    Tyrwhitt (1946, 18).

  50. 50.

    Khan (2011); see Chapter Evolving the City.

  51. 51.

    The discovery of fractal dimensions was not to occur until the work of Benoit Mandelbrot for example Mandelbrot (1967).

  52. 52.

    See Chapter From an Exterior to an Interior Urban Gaze.

  53. 53.

    e.g. Maxime Du Camp see Chapter A City for ’Natural Man’.

  54. 54.

    López-Durán (2018, 145).

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Amati, M. (2021). The City of Organic Regularity. In: The City and the Super-Organism. Palgrave Macmillan, Singapore. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-16-3977-7_7

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