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Posted March 2, 2009
Important Contribution to Scholarship
This book examines the social context of Le Corbusier's early life, education, and career as an architect It shows that while Le Corbusier never became a Freemason, the social context in which he operated (especially in his early professional career) was so dominated by Freemasons, that Masonic thought and ways of thinking thoroughly and indelibly permeated his ideas on architecture (including, notably, the concept of the architectural promenade). It thereby explains the "initiatic" quality of all of Le Corbusier's most important designs. The documentation is meticulous, and introduces much visual material to the scholarly community for the first time. Packed with detail, the book will be as interesting to historians of Freemasonry as to those of architecture. It corrects or nuances much of the received wisdom about Le Corbusier's education and training in La Chaux-de-Fonds and Paris. All in all, this is a fascinating book -- one of the year's absolute must-reads for anyone interested in 20th-century architecture. It should spark considerable debate, and is likely to prove to be a turning point in the ongoing le Corbusier scholarship.
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Into the future on the basis of the past
Dear Reader, My book is the result of five years of hard empirical research. Like many of Picasso's friends and republican intellectuals in Paris, Le Corbusier was involved in freemasonic networks. Many of Le Corbusier's friends, such as Juan Gris and Jacques Lipchitz and Paul Dermée, were members of socialist and republican lodges too. And just as Picasso (1881-1973) pitted himself against past masters of European painting, so Le Corbusier (1887-1965), who spent many hours cribbing from eighteenth-century books in the Bibliothèque nationale, has been described as a "cultural cannibal and radical innovator". Indeed, in his library is a much-worn book about the architecture of a radical modern eighteenth-century architect, whose architectural and engineering innovations his own 'immaculate conceptions' resemble uncannily. Le Corbusier and the Occult describes how Charles-Edouard Jeanneret, who was born in La Chaux-de-Fonds where he lived for the first thirty years of his life before leaving for Paris in 1917 to reinvent himself as the quasi-aristocratic Le Corbusier, absorbed the social ideals emanating from the prestigious Masonic lodge in La Chaux-de-Fonds, La Loge L'Amitié, whose freemasonic symbols of the right angle and the compass were described by Le Corbusier in his "Poem of the Right Angle" as "my choice, my guide". Within this ritualistic and symbolic context, Le Corbusier's 'architectural promenade' takes on a very different meaning. Le Corbusier used these republican Masonic ideals in his dealings with freemasonic politicians of the Third Republic and beyond, such as Jean Cassou, director of the Musée d'art moderne. Le Corbusier and the Occult also traces Le Corbusier's connections to the compagnonnages, the survivors of the medieval carpenters' and masons' guilds, who were involved in the construction of the Unité d'habitation in Marseille. Thus, Le Corbusier's ideas, which are not at all 'immaculate conceptions', are firmly rooted in local and contemporary culture. Le Corbusier and the Occult shows how, throughout the spectacular changes and the eclectic references in Le Corbusier's art and architecture, lie carefully structured continuities that are firmly rooted in the past as source of innovation. As a monograph with 177 illustrations, Le Corbusier and the Occult can be either read or simply looked at in so far as the sequence of illustrations provides the story and the argument of the book in parallel to the text. I have worked hard to select the pictures! I hope you find my book genuinely illuminating. Beneath I recommend four books that I admire for their related topic or for their methodological approaches. What I am involved in is, of course, the writing of history, which is such a difficult and fascinating endeavour. JK BirkstedWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.