Sunday, 21 July 2013

Forward-Thinking Design

The multi-talented and accomplished Le Corbusier
We did the thing in New York this summer -- wait for hours to check out the Rain Room as you can see in my earlier post.

But we also checked out the main museum and saw such favourites as Vincent van Gogh's The Starry Night, Henri Matisse's Dance (I), many of Pablo Picasso's works, including Les Desmoiselles d'Avignon, and of course Claude Monet's Water Lilies.

One of the many models of his designs in the exhibition
Meanwhile we checked out one of the special exhibitions on Le Corbusier, the first extensive retrospective MoMA has presented on the artist, architect, interior designer, city planner, photographer and writer. It's on until September 23.

He did 400 projects, including 75 buildings in 12 countries.

Le Corbusier was born Charles-Edouard Jeanneret and when he was young, his parents thought he'd follow his father and become a watch engraver, and so Le Corbusier enrolled into art school. But one of his teachers influenced him to go into architecture.

A recliner that Le Corbusier designed
He travelled extensively, constantly sketching what he saw and he left behind 80 sketchbooks filled with drawings and water colours. He had lots of ideas for private homes to social housing, and even designed furniture. One exhibit showed a small home he and his wife lived in up in the Swiss mountains. It's very tiny -- could be a flat in Hong Kong -- and he designed all the furniture inside that seemed more practical than stylish.

In 1920 Jeanneret adopted the name Le Corbusier, an altered form of his maternal grandfather's name Lecorbesier, believing a name would help reinvent himself.

Then just designing individual buildings was not enough -- Le Corbusier began thinking on a large scale of city districts and even entire municipalities, as Chandigarh, India, would attest to that. His ideas were so revolutionary, in that they had no historical anchor or precedence; they were fresh, modern and forward thinking.

The exhibition shows a film of him in his later years being interviewed in his studio by a young woman. As she asks him questions in French he gives what might have seemed like radical answers at the time in that he had no patience in talking about the past or having to explain himself.

Chandigarh's State Assembly is the focal point of the city
Sadly he died August 27, 1965 when he went out for a swim -- against doctor's orders -- in the Mediterranean Sea at Roquebrune-Cap-Martin in France. Nevertheless, we will continue to remember him as a force to be reckoned with, who had power and unconventional freedom of his ideas.

Le Corbusier: An Atlas of Modern Landscapes
Until September 23
6/F, MoMA
New York

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