Both courses felt contemporary, punchy, and fresh, as they were trying to extrapolate and situate historical architecture in its context, poised to draw lessons applicable to contemporary discourse and practice.
This perspective is precisely what I urge us all to embrace as we delve into this exhibition and, in a broader sense, engage with history itself. While history may be etched in the archives of time, it is our mission to breathe vitality into its narratives, not through the lens of nostalgia, but with a fervent curiosity that brings it back to life and makes it relevant to our age.
As we contemplate Corbusier's architectural legacy and the contextual milieu that enveloped it is imperative to anchor our observations in the wider zeitgeist of the era.
The original global disruptor
When Corbusier unveiled his Maison Domino sketch in 1919, depicting an unadorned concrete structure supported by straightforward columns, beams, and slabs as the architecture of the future, much of Europe remained entranced by Neo-Classicism. Meanwhile, across the Atlantic in the United States, art deco and neo-gothic architects were reigning supreme. I'm confident that if the Villa Stein of 1926 or the Villa Savoye of 1929 were constructed in today's world, they would swiftly ignite a viral storm on social media and seduce our collective imagination. These structures are just as pertinent today as they were unconventional in their own time.
A simple Google search for the 1922 Chicago Tribune Tower competition will unveil a remarkable assortment of formal oddities. The world was struggling with the challenge of moving from the past to the future seamlessly and authentically.
Meanwhile, across the ocean in Europe, Charles-Édouard Jeanneret-Gris (who later became known as Corbusier) was advocating for open layouts, terraced gardens, ribbon windows, and façades liberated from the tyranny of traditional structure.
While the rest of the world struggled to shed 19th-century sensibilities, Corbusier was already envisioning the 21st century.
Beyond his architectural achievements, I am particularly intrigued by his remarkable astuteness as one of the earliest global architectural influencers. He not only held the conviction that his ideas could revolutionize the world, but he displayed relentless determination and remarkable shrewdness in spreading them – even a century ago!
A mere four years after completing Villa Stein in 1930, Corbusier revisited it with a film crew to feature it in his ''Architecture d'aujourd'hui" documentary. While a harsh eye might perceive the footage as somewhat unpolished cinematography, it's crucial to remember that this endeavor unfolded just three years after the first-ever talking film was showcased in theaters worldwide.Unlike any of his contemporaries, Corbusier embraced cutting-edge technology to chronicle not only his architectural creations but also his car and even his own countenance, presenting them for all to witness, both in his present and for generations to come. What a daring vision, what an unapologetic ego!
His assertion matched the audacity of his deeds: he wasn't merely altering our built environment, but he was ready to transform our entire way of life. His assertions were as bold as his actions, positioning him as a trailblazing disruptor within the realm of architecture, and quite possibly one of the few to have wielded such global influence so early, on such profound levels.
The original global influencer
To conclude, as we delve deeper into the realm of Corbusier and his contributions, I encourage you to explore not just his physical architectural legacy, but also the mindset that drove his actions. What if Corbusier were here today? It's quite likely that his approach wouldn't simply involve creating another series of concrete structures – after all, he achieved that feat a century ago.
Would he still be preoccupied with constructing buildings, or might he operate within the virtual realm? Could he harness the potential of Artificial Intelligence, or even forge an entirely novel business model for architectural practice? What modern technologies would he leverage to conceive and broadcast his creative work? How might he revolutionize the architectural profession in the 21st century?
My hope is that we all, in engaging with this remarkable collection of work as it journeys across the globe, seek the traces of a distinctive mindset rather than solely focusing on tangible outcomes.
May this exhibition serve as a catalyst, sparking vibrant dialogues and fresh contemporary discourse that transcends the boundaries of time.