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A Controversial Genius? Le Corbusier Debated In Bristol

By Culture24 Staff | 02 December 2008
A picture of a sketch of a multi-storey block of flats created by architect Le Corbusier

(Above) An aerial view of Le Corbusier's L’Unite d’Habitation. Sketch by Stephen Macfarlane

A triple bill of events stirring debate over the life and legacy of controversial architect Le Corbusier begins tonight, December 2 2008, in Bristol.

Bristol’s Architecture Centre is hosting a talk by expert Flora Samuel on the Franco-Swiss designer’s tumultuous relationship with women and fascination with gender roles, a pre-occupation which has more recently been cited as influencing his structures.

Already a divisive figure thanks to his futuristic, often clinical re-imaginings of urban design in 1930s Paris, the intrigue surrounding Le Corbusier was enhanced earlier this year when a new archive in the French capital revealed his promiscuous tendencies and belief that “the sexual question” had reached a new low.

Design and architectural lecturer Samuel, the author of Le Corbusier in Detail, provides her examination as part of the ongoing Secret Labour exhibition at the centre, exploring Le Corbusier’s dilettantish ability to flit between painting, architecture and planning across Paris.

It includes the film L’Unite d’Habitation, a short outlining the heavily influential, high-rise concrete designs implemented by the artist in post-war Marseille.

A picture of a sketch of a block of flats being created with cranes

(Above) L’Unite d’Habitation during construction. Sketch by Stephen Macfarlane

Director Gillian Fearnyough said the events were aiming to “provide a formal platform for an assessment of his continuing influence.”

“When Stephen Macfarlane kindly offered the exhibition to The Architecture Centre we saw this as an opportunity to re-present them to a contemporary audience and reconsider his influence,” she said.

“Through this exhibition and events we encourage everyone to review their judgement of this controversial genius.”

A rare screening of Nicole Vedres’ BAFTA-nominated semi-fictional documentary, La Vie Commence Demain, follows on December 13, narrating its subject as architect, painter, existentialist and author against the prospect of a future where atomic energy dominates the earth.

Le Corbusier: La Conversation will also discuss the continuing relevance of Corbusier’s impact on housing, city planning and engineering with a panel of eminent speakers next month.

Flora Samuel gives her Le Corbusier and Women talk at The Architecture Centre tonight at 6.30pm, tickets £5/£3.

La Vie Commence Demain is screening at Arnolfini on December 13 at 7.30pm, tickets £3.50/£2.50 (free for students with ID).

Le Corbusier: La Conversation takes place at The Architecture Centre on January 8 at 6.30pm, tickets £5/£3.

Advance booking is recommended for all three events (essential for La Vie Commence Demain). Call the Architecture Centre on 0117 922 1540 to book for the talk and debate, or Arnolfini on 0117 917 2300 for the film.

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