Machine à habiter

Le Corbusier at the Barbican

This exhibition was frustrating to begin with. Why must they establish such a banging narrative? But the second part, where you could just mill around taking in the materials and documentation, offered a chance to admire the work of the great man. Altogether it made me want to go and visit the buildings themselves again-I’d go to Marseilles to visit the Unité. There was the picture of the nursery children playing on the roof, something they were probably never allowed to do again.

The most interesting exhibits are the contact prints, models and annotated drawings part of the design process. The drawings on discoloured paper look fragile but it was moving to see the lighting and heating drawings that looked so simple, hand labeled in those kind of capital letters I tried hard to copy when I was at architectural school. 

There was film footage of the Indian workers carrying up the concrete in large metal bowls. Amongst contacts from the work of Lucien Hervé was a picture of rows of workers standing at the top of the shuttering amongst the forest of reinforcement bars pouring in the concrete by hand. 

To experience the ideas themselves you must visit the buildings, which you can easily do, next time you’re in Paris, Marseilles, Ronchamp. Or you can see Le Corbusier’s influence on London architects in the Golden Lane Estate.  next door. On my way out cycling away, the glass clad office buildings surrounding the Barbican just looked a mess. Could be reverence or reference, placing artfully massed ventilation shafts in the piazza.

Machine à habiter

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