Le Corbusier: A Life
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Le Corbusier: A Life

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by Nicholas Fox Weber
     
 

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From acclaimed biographer and cultural historian, author of Balthus and Patron Saints—the first full-scale life of le Corbusier, one of the most influential, admired, and maligned architects of the twentieth century, heralded is a prophet in his lifetime, revered as a god after his death.

He was a leader of the modernist movement that sought

Overview

From acclaimed biographer and cultural historian, author of Balthus and Patron Saints—the first full-scale life of le Corbusier, one of the most influential, admired, and maligned architects of the twentieth century, heralded is a prophet in his lifetime, revered as a god after his death.

He was a leader of the modernist movement that sought to create better living conditions and a better society through housing concepts. He predicted the city of the future with its large, white apartment buildings in parklike settings—a move away from the turn-of-the-century industrial city, which he saw as too fussy and suffocating and believed should be torn down, including most of Paris. Irascible and caustic, tender and enthusiastic, more than a mercurial innovator, Le Corbusier was considered to be the very conscience of modern architecture.

In this first biography of the man, Nicholas Fox Weber writes about Le Corbusier the precise, mathematical, practical-minded artist whose idealism—vibrant, poetic, imaginative; discipline; and sensualism were reflected in his iconic designs and pioneering theories of architecture and urban planning.

Weber writes about Le Corbusier’s training; his coming to live and work in Paris; the ties he formed with Nehru . . . Brassaï . . . Malraux (he championed Le Corbusier’s work and commissioned a major new museum for art to be built on the outskirts of Paris) . . . Einstein . . . Matisse . . . the Steins . . . Picasso . . . Walter Gropius, and others.

We see how Le Corbusier, who appreciated goverments only for the possibility of obtaining architectural commissions, was drawn to the new Soviet Union and extolled the merits of communism (he never joined the party); and in 1928, as the possible architect of a major new building, went to Moscow, where he was hailed by Trotsky and was received at the Kremlin. Le Corbusier praised the ideas of Mussolini and worked for two years under the Vichy government, hoping to oversee new construction and urbanism throughout France. Le Corbusier believed that Hitler and Vichy rule would bring about “a marvelous transformation of society,” then renounced the doomed regime and went to work for Charles de Gaulle and his provisional government.

Weber writes about Le Corbusier’s fraught relationships with women (he remained celibate until the age of twenty-four and then often went to prostitutes); about his twenty-seven-year-long marriage to a woman who had no interest in architecture and forbade it being discussed at the dinner table; about his numerous love affairs during his marriage, including his shipboard romance with the twenty-three-year-old Josephine Baker, already a legend in Paris, whom he saw as a “pure and guileless soul.” She saw him as “irresistibly funny.” “What a shame you’re an architect!” she wrote. “You’d have made such a good partner!”

A brilliant revelation of this single-minded, elusive genius, of his extraordinary achivements and the age in which he lived.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Weber’s admiring biography brings Le Corbusier to life, unraveling many obscure aspects of a man who was famously secretive and, though he wrote some 50 books, divulged very little of himself. . .[Weber] allows Le Corbusier to emerge as a fascinating if flawed human being.”

—Witold Rybczynski, The New York Times Book Review

“Both megalomaniacal and brilliant, Le Corbusier emerges from Weber’s mesmerizing pages in all his complexity.”

Booklist, starred

“Full of provocative insights and welcome surprises.”

The New York Times

“The deeply felt tribute to Le Corbusier’s work is enriched by Weber’s engrossing, entertaining portrait of his complex personality.”

Kirkus Reviews, starred

Witold Rybczynski
There have been nearly 400 architectural monographs on Le Corbusier's work, by Weber's count, but this is the first full-length biography, and it's a good one…Weber's admiring biography brings Le Corbusier to life, unraveling many obscure aspects of a man who was famously secretive and, though he wrote some 50 books, divulged very little of himself…[Weber] allows Le Corbusier to emerge as a fascinating if flawed human being
—The New York Times
Library Journal

Le Corbusier is arguably the greatest and most influential 20th-century architect, and the literature on him is vast. But because of his mercurial, enigmatic, and controversial personality, scholars have been reluctant to put his life under the biographical microscope. Art historian Weber (Balthus: A Biography), having combed the archives of the Fondation Le Corbusier in Paris, offers a uniquely intimate account of the architect. The countless letters in which "Corbu" poured out his theories, passions, and many idiosyncrasies form the basis of this revelatory, nearly day-by-day chronology. In Le Corbusier and the Continual Revolution in Architecture, Charles Jencks likewise veered away from architectural analysis to delve into the architect's psyche but never approaches the exhaustive, even voyeuristic degree Weber achieves-we witness Corbu's verbal assaults on friends and powerful clients alike, the extramarital but hardly clandestine affairs, a horrific swimming accident, even a photo of Corbu painting in the nude! Le Corbusier truly comes to life in Weber's biography, but many will still prefer a more compressed and analytical study, such as Kenneth Frampton's excellent Le Corbusier.
—David Soltesz

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780375410437
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
11/11/2008
Pages:
848
Sales rank:
1,038,374
Product dimensions:
6.70(w) x 9.40(h) x 1.70(d)

Meet the Author

Nicholas Fox Weber was born in Hartford, Connecticut, and graduated from Columbia College and Yale University. He is the director of the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation and the author of thirteen previous books, among them The Clarks of Cooperstown, Balthus, Patron Saints, and The Art of Babar. He and his wife, the novelist Katharine Weber, live in Bethany, Connecticut, and Paris. They have two daughters.

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Le Corbusier 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
JamesMWilliams More than 1 year ago
I found this to be one of the most interesting and informative books about Le Corbusier. It is well written and enjoyable to read. The book is about the life of Le Corbusier, his successes and failures, his joys and disappointments. Much of the information comes from his letters and other writings. Once I started reading, I couldn't put the book down. It is one of my favorite books of all time. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the history or architecture and anyone who practices architecture. Although the book is about his life, there are insights to his work throughout. I do wish however that there were more photos...