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Aviation and the Aerial View: Le Corbusier's Spatial Transformations in the 1930s and 1940s Author(s): M.

Christine Boyer Source: Diacritics, Vol. 33, No. 3/4, New Coordinates: Spatial Mappings, National Trajectories (Autumn - Winter, 2003), pp. 93-116 Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press Stable URL: Accessed: 17/05/2010 08:15
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Part One: The Aerial View Aviation and Equipment. A London publishing house, The Studio, Ltd, sent Le Cor? busier a letter in January 1935, inquiring whether he would be interested in collaborating on a new series of books to be titled The New Vision. The promoters explained that each book in the series would be devoted to a unique event in industrial design, with specific attention paid to the designers, their aims, and the potential these designs held for social and human development. They would begin the series with a volume on the airplane. Le Corbusier was asked to write an introductory essay, supply captions for the images they had already collected, and offer a few suggestions for additional illustrations.1 Accepting the invitation, Le Corbusier in his reply, however, transformed the proj? ect: instead of the word "airplane" he preferred "aviation," by which he meant all the prodigious phenomena opening vast new horizons in space and influencing the future of "equipment" in the broadest sense of the word.2 Already in Precisions (1930) he had written, "I replace the word 'urbanism' by the term 'equipment.' I have already replaced the term 'furniture' by that of 'equipment.' Such stubbornness shows well that we are purely and simply claiming tools for work, for we do not want to die of hunger facing the embroidered flowerbeds of aesthetic urbanism" [143]. To his bag of equip? ment, Le Corbusier now adds "aviation," a tool of modern communication forging new modes of exchange and new links between nations.3 The material subsequently sent by the publishing house to Le Corbusier also met with lukewarm reception: he favored more lively documentation such as the view from an airplane as it flew over cities?vast open terrain, the sea, and the forests. And he and so? wanted more picturesque treatment of the lives of aviators, their psychological cial attitudes including analysis of the great aerial routes being drawn between Europe and America, Africa, or Asia. The publishing house was unable to fulfill Le Corbusier's

1. Fondation Le Corbusier (FLC) B3-14-1, B3-14-4. 2. FLC, B3-14-3. On 22 January 1935 Le Corbursier answers: "Par aeroplane,je veux bien comprendreplutot 'aviation, 'c'est-d-dire tout lephenomene siprodigieux qui ouvre des horizons entierement neufs et qui comporte deja des equipements de laplus haute signification" [B3-143]. 3. Note that in 1928 Le Corbusier had participated in the design of a table called "table tube d'avion," and that the word "equipage" in French means "the crew."


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diacritics 33.3-4:93-116


expectations, reminding him that their focus was limited to "the airplane" and that they expected to receive all his material by May.4 What did Le Corbusier mean by "aviation" and the "epic of the air," a phrase he used in the preface of the subsequent book Aircraft (1935)? What new horizons did aviation open and how did this affect the perception of space and the process of read? ing the terrain as a two-dimensional map or a plan? And what did aviation have to do with "equipment"? Just the year before Le Corbusier had seen the Exposition de in Milan for which Mussolini offered the maxim: "Aviation is grand, l'Aeronautique small, or nothing at all, depending on whether public awareness of aviation is grand, small, or nothing at all."5 Le Corbusier, ever the great publicist, accepted the challenge to spread the meaning of "aviation" in the inclusive sense of the word entailing adventure and service, organization, and machinery. The rapid growth of aviation during the interwar period was mercurial, dramatically reshaping perception of the world and of space. There were daring flights of aviators challenging the breath of oceans and deserts, the heights of Everest, the length of Africa, the uncharted terrain of the North and South Poles. The airplane not only internationalized cartography; it was a tool for exploring and controlling the colonies. While aerial photography, which recorded in precise detail the realistic shape of landmasses, coastlines, seas, deserts, and mountains, perfected the process of mapmaking and enriched the documentary archive of the planet. Yet even more stunning, aviation continually shrunk the size of the globe after the initial KLM flight between Amsterdam and Jakarta took off in 1924. Then the time needed to navigate the 9000 miles was 55 days; within five years it had been reduced to a mere 12 days. A world map criss-crossed with national air routes came into view. In the 1930s civil airlines began to offer passenger and mail service between London and the Middle East, then on to India and Australia; or between Toulouse and Dakar, and even shorter flights between Paris and Brussels.6 Although the air was technically indivisible, still each nationality was intent on assuring that their aerial routes served their own national interests. To fly across Europe it was necessary to change apparatus several times and zigzag through trunk routes to arrive at a destination. There was no direct aerial route between England and Egypt, for example, because various European nations prohibited English flights over their territory. Hence English passengers bound for the Middle East had to take a train to Geneva and then a hydrofoil to Alexandria. By 1937 six different intercontinental routes crossed the Mediterranean. Germany, Belgium, France, Great Britain, Italy, and Holland all drew their own national lines across the sea?a mirror reflection of the anarchic state of international relations during the 1930s. Added to this global network was an almost invisible event: two thirds of all air routes until the late 1930s were modest routes in certain parts of the globe, developed in response to local needs for commercial exchange and serving remote areas such as Siberia, Canada, Central Africa, Brazil, Peru, Colombia, and Argentina [see CrochetDamais and Martonne]. "Aviation" destroyed an old order while simultaneously giving birth to temps nouveaux. Perhaps this is why Le Corbusier repeats a hypothetical story in Aircraft and The Four Routes about an "aerial locomotion show" organized in Juvisy by the Lathams and Voisins about 1910 [Aircraft 7; Routes 97]. Le Corbusier left Paris at noon travel4. FLC, B3-14-21, B3-14-23. 5. FLC, C3-12-6-23. Letter from Le Corbusier to Vogel director ofVU. See also Le Cor? busier, Aircraft 8. 6. Telecommunications were also on the rise: the BBC's Empire Services crackled over shortwave receivers for the first time in 1932, and motorized vehicles began to make their way along modern road networks wherever they spread.


ing by train the fifteen kilometers to Juvisy. But so did 300,000 other enthusiasts. The railroad company was not prepared for such a crush, and so Le Corbusier arrived in the pitch dark long after the air show had finished. But he remembered that they amused themselves on the delayed journey by pelting returning trains with stones and smashing furniture, the signal boxes, and even the station. Le Corbusier everything in sight?the wondered "[w]as it a symbolic assault by the neophytes of the air against that black tyranny of the railroad? Or was it a demonstration by the forces of optimism who felt that in our country laziness was systematically blocking the way? Or was it anarchy?" He concluded that "[s]ignificant portents must have been in the air to have upset to such a point of frenzy a quiet, springtime Sunday afternoon" [Routes 98-99]. If Le Corbusier's Esprit Nouveau articles on "Eyes That Do Not See" were in? tended to increase awareness in the 1920s about the prodigious new world that modern technology and science had created, as evidenced in the marvels of the steamship, the automobile, and the airplane, in the 1930s it was the "bird's-eye view" from the air? plane that he wanted to explore and the third dimension it added to architecture. The aerial view touched Le Corbusier profoundly, for he was a man who "lived to see." The view from the airplane was decidedly visual: it enabled Le Corbusier to develop a new awareness of the way the entire landscape in its natural setting was configured, of the effect man had on the land, and of the dependency of the earth on its fragile biosphere. This reading engendered a new mode of thought about natural laws visualizing these as organic chains of events. The sun became a dictator and the meander of rivers a law. Flying through the air, immersed in clouds, buffeted about by the wind and noise, was an "ecstatic" experience for Le Corbusier. He called the exploration of space truly cosmic. Both the visual spectacle as well as the heroics and camaraderie of the negative daring pilots leading the crusade filled him with poetic passion.7 At the same moment, however, the new eagle eye of the airplane gave evidence of the "spectacle of collapse" for the "airplane indicts" telling the truth about unruly expanses of urban space and placing the blame on the authorities responsible for controlling the land [Aircraft 5, 11]. Le Corbusier first gained insight into this synoptic aerial view when he flew to Moscow in 1928, a view reinforced by flights over South America the following year and over the desert of North Africa in 1933. The living tableau of the lay of the land seen from on high completely transformed his visual imagery, concepts of geography, and procedures of mapmaking. He witnessed not only the vast open terrain of space but the mosaic pattern of land ownership and the curvature of the earth's horizon as well. The multidirectional flow of rivers, the freedom ofthe airplane's mobility through space, and the great speeds of travel transfigured his thought. Sitting in an airplane with sketchbook in hand, he forged a hybrid system of analysis varying his angles of observation: the vast expanse of the landscape was read as a new planned text, its contours and masses reduced to so many lines traced out on a grid, while flows and meanders

7. Le Corbusier proclaimed that architectural creation concerns both utility and passion. The creation ofan object as an extension ofour body answers utilitarian needs. "It can be called 'living' if it moves, hence we approach biology. Such an object involves mechanical functions: the airplane, the submarine, the dirigible. Ourjoys are shared among these living beings, which we can caress with the hand and the eye (the airplane, the race ear, the boat) and spiritual crystallizations, which are products ofour intellect and our thought. We are proud of andfeel affectionfor these objects touched by both utility and passion.... That is when the word 'architecture' can be applied, when the spectator reads clearly the intentions and is moved. Even though the word 'architecture' also involves bidets, central heating and the 'machine for living in', it must always understand that its focus is man who has both a head and a heart, and who lives in order to act" /Une Maison-Un Palais 4-5].


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coursed through the space. Lyrical intuition now joined his bent for Cartesian rational? ity. Le Corbusier, while sketching Rio de Janeiro during a flight in 1929, confessed that "the conception of a vast programme of organic town-planning came like a revelation" [Aircraft caption 114, n.p.]. This double vision of reason and poetry, analysis and revelation, for the next two decades not only modeled his urban images but sustained their geopolitical afterimage as well. The adventure of aviation had a decided impact on the future of global relationships as it seemed to destroy old concepts of spheres of influence and the balance of powers and to conjure up instead a new world order and transnational organizations for peace. Le Corbusier was well aware of Antoine de Saint-Exupery, the writer of aviation novels, who proclaimed: "The aeroplane is not an end in itself: it is a tool, like a plough" [in Ory 13]. Delighting in the metaphor, this tool would enable Le Corbusier to conceive of great geomorphic structures stretching across space, rendering obsolete existing parcels of land, forms ofthe city, and regional and national boundaries. In the temps nouveaux, those of the second industrial revolution, the concentric city of the first industrial age was rejected and new geopolitical alignments drawing the north and the south together imagined instead. During the 1930s Le Corbusier plunged into the study and design of over 20 differ? ent city plans in which architecture and urbanism forged a new unity. He spoke of this in Precisions (1930):

Moscow with its steppes, at the pampa and in Buenos Aires, in the rain forest, and in Rio, have deeply rooted me in the soil of architecture. Architecture acts by intellectual construction. It is the mobility ofthe mind that leads to the far horizons of great solutions. When the solutions are great and when nature comes to join them happily, or better still, when nature integrates itself in them, it is then that one approaches unity. And I believe that unity is that stage to which the unceasing and penetrating work ofmind leads. [245] Le Corbusier is being deliberately paradoxical. "The soil of architecture" envisions both natural transformations of the land, such as the advance of forests or the drying up of riverbeds, and such human interventions as the construction of huge dams and tunnels, the clearance of land, and urbanization spreading beyond control. It draws together both natural forces and man-made constructions. It is as if Le Corbusier were standing on a balcony gazing on the marvels of sunsets, cloud formations, mountain ranges, forests, and valleys deeply attentive to the message nature directed to his soul, to the ideas that turned in his mind. But simultaneously it is as if he were studying a map or aerial view on a flatbed where nature lay exposed to be exploited for the benefit of mankind. To draw up a plan is to make an abstraction, a projection onto the land that implies action and transformation. Thus a plan becomes a working drawing: first used as a tool of description and then to manage the surface development. Consequently the representational map or plan and the living tableau embody two different aspects of nature. To contemplate a landscape is to establish a cosmic bond with nature or draw from it a metaphysical meaning. Such enthrallment is the antithesis of the cartographic view [see Corboz]. Yet Le Corbusier intentionally deposits both of these notions in the "soil of architecture." Heroics and myth-making. Le Corbusier was spiritually aroused by the feats of the aviator who was sent out to challenge unchartered realms, to fly above the icecaps of the Poles and across oceans and deserts, and over the highest of mountain ranges. Dur? ing the 1920s and 1930s, the aviator was laden with dreams of grandeur soaring beyond


mundane reality into the heavens beyond. Yet returning to earth, he was expected to be an exemplar and leader of men. Aviation provided new standards for worldly reform and spiritual regeneration: it enriched the world by the challenges it posed, the audacious bravery it required, and the elite leadership it demanded [see Fritzsche]. Heroes were teamed together, exemplars of the virtues of service and perseverance, overcom? were daily or Costes-and-Bellonte ing dangers and risking death: Nungesser-and-Coli reminders that the aviator's feats relied on a crew and a network of support from the ground, be it hangars, fuel stops, weather stations, or radio signals and flags.8 "Equipment" stood for all of these new organizational methods that aviation engendered, including the precisioning of time and the collapsing of space. Le Corbusier told a story in The Radiant City (1935) about a visit to the Amsterdam airport where he met the head of the East Indies airline. Only those who have had the experience of flying high over vast stretches of territory and mountain chains could understand the emotions Le Corbusier felt while gazing on the vast mural map of Europe, Africa, and Asia marked with red and blue lines representing eight different legs flown by this line. He shook with excitement as he realized that airplanes were at that very moment fly? ing along those lines but at different times of the day. There were amazing figures to contemplate as well: the weekly mail to the East Indies amounted to 1200 kilograms or one-fifth of what went by sea. Imagine that when the airline carries two-fifths of the load it will have paid for itself! Soon the problem of night flying would be solved, the head of the airline proclaimed, then days of flight time will be cut from each journey. Already the relays of this journey, really a spiritual Odyssey, have established the links in a global chain that stretched from Greece to Egypt, Arabia, India, and Indochina. In twenty short years what breathtaking solutions have been accomplished since the first flights of Voisin, Santos-Dumont, at such collective Wright, or Latham. To arrive action, personal participation must be felt every step of the way, and the materiality of labor enlightened by a spirit of cooperation?all of this informed Le Corbusier's extended meaning of "equipment" and underlined his political alignments [Radiant City 179; see also Routes 102]. During the 1930s, the aviator became increasingly free of his former reliance on the ground. His instruments and equipment enabled him to fly without having to rec? ognize landmarks or the slope of the terrain in order to stay on course. Now he could fly through the day and the night, through sun or fog, keeping to a rigorous schedule and arriving on time. So Le Corbusier exclaimed: "The airplane no longer pays atten? tion to the millennial fact of the route on the lands; it passes above, across, no longer concerned with gradients determined by slopes or distances. At assigned ends ... the 'steamship ofthe air' with its merchandise and people land" [Trois etablissements 130]. To misunderstand this new globalism was to misunderstand the marvels of aviation. The Americas, Europe, Eurasia, and Eurafrica were no longer continents but direct tra? jectories of communication flowing between dots on the map. Life could now develop in rare points on the globe, while other dots would be disqualified, even extinguished, because they did not lie on an aerial route. Already in 1945 the Congress of French Aviation had begun a planning initiative based on this modern concept to guide urbanists in their new task of postwar reconstruction. Le Corbusier offered the congress his schemes outlined in Urbanisme des trois etablissements (Urbanism ofthe Three Estabso he believed?would lishments) (1945), for certainly the impact ofthe airplane?or bring life or death to the radiocentric city. Some cities would be qualified while others were disqualified, and in their place new linear industrial cities and radiant farms would develop instead [138-41]. 8. The first successful aviation novel in France was Joseph Kessel's 1920s book Equipage (The Crew). It was quickly adaptedfor the cinema three times within ten years [Ory 5].


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The airplane made every place accessible, mountains, nothing of nature?not in its way [Fritzsche 172-75, 185]. Its bird's-eye oceans, icecaps, nor deserts?stood aerial view surveyed every nook and cranny throwing a net of surveillance over the world. The aerial view appeared to make national boundaries obsolete: it was easier to understand the natural formation of regions, the unity of river valleys, the expanse of farmlands, and the location of mineral deposits. Did the aviator's humility in front of nature's forces, and the awareness of the cultural diversity of the world, hold out the ideal of a new peaceful community of nations as Saint-Exupery and Le Corbusier hoped? Aviation with its stress on technical mastery, elite leadership, organizational both discipline, and a new world order created an array of geopolitical consequences utopian and reactionary. It seemed to prove that nature (and thus capital, as reified na? ture) could be overcome, that a revolution of perception and visual interpretation was at hand, that a new world order was imminent. "Aviation" was truly transformative! A Geopolitical View: Or the Science of the State as a Realm in Space. It is impos? sible to read Le Corbusier's enthusiastic account about the "epic of aviation" and the revolution of equipment without considering his politics during the 1930s and 1940s. From 1931 to 1936 he contributed to and joined the editorial board of two neosyndicalist periodicals, Plans (1931-32) and some ofhis articles ap? and Prelude (1933-35), peared as well in L'homme reel, an extension of Prelude [see McLeod]. Standing under the motto "ni droite ni gauche" (neither right not left), the editors of these reviews were against the abstract man of democracy and the materialist man of communism. They opted instead for "l'homme reel" based on man's interest and his natural relationships with the machine and with work [see Golan and Lagardelle]. Utilizing the terms "order" and "revolution," they sought a third way which they believed only the young would discover and open up. They sought a route toward the second industrial era bringing that was necessary for reconstruction. peace and harmony in its wake?peace During the years ofthe depression, when building projects were few, Le Corbusier turned his attention toward urban planning, echoing many refrains the neosyndicalists detailed in their reviews. He asked in the concluding chapter of The Radiant City what authority would recognize that the country needed "total planning"?

Waste, that snickering and drunken tyrant, at present claims all our labor, all our sweat. Waste is strangling us, bewitching us, bogging us down, sucking us dry ofall our substance. . . . Authority, it is up to you to see the truth of things, to contradict thisfolly, to stop this insane race into chaos once and for all. The "Plan" will kill waste. . . . But at the moment we have the drama of fighting for subsistence added to our usual ration of emotional drama, and that is why there are revolutions rumbling underground or exploding all over the place. " The "Plan is revolutionary. We must accept the Plan and make it a real? ity: city, village, form. [342] All of these words appear innocent enough until they are relocated within the neosyndicalist paradigm and its apolitical stance. Neosyndicalism, a loosely defined doctrine without a coherent ideology, was nevertheless anticapitalist, antistatist, and antidemocratic. In the midst of world depression, not capitalism, nor fascism, nor communism offered answers. The first editorial of Plans in January 1931 declared that during these pressing times, man had been left without a clear set of directives, a precise set of aims, or a plan. It was the review's intent to aid in the creation of a new order and to offer man a general direction.9 Believing that the individual joined collective society through so9. "La ligne generale," Plans 1 (Jan. 1931): 7-9.

cial groups found naturally in regional or professional units, the editors placed rural and industrial syndicates at the base of their societal reorganization. Industrial syndicates would regulate output with the best interests of the nation held firmly in mind so that strikes and economic anarchy were avoided. overproduction and underconsumption, At the same time, rural syndicates would reach downward to preserve family values, vernacular traditions, and organic rootedness in the soil in order to stabilize agricultural production. Arranged in hierarchical groups, and led by elite technocrats from the top, these collective institutions would replace the anarchy of individual pursuits, class warfare, and war between nations. Le Corbusier declares that the regional plan considers the geographical situation, climatic conditions, ethnographic makeup, the nature ofthe soil and subsoil. It assures that production will harmonize with the needs of the region, adjacent regions, and federations of regions at both the national and international level [Des canons 118]. The state, the neosyndicalists argued, was the natural inverse of individualism; it was strong only because the individual was weak; he might participate in democracy, but the state never reciprocated by listening to his interests or needs or the things that concerned his region or profession. Democracy and capitalism merely exploited his weaknesses to their advantage. If individuals were organized into natural groups, how? ever, then they would achieve a new freedom and a new culture more suitable to the second machine age. In a revolutionized society, Vhomme reel would be offered ratio? nal tools to enhance his functioning: housing, health, sports, reform of values, money, and property. To engender this new order, the neosyndicalist's "revolution" needed led by a particular category of decision makers. And the authorities had to un? plans, derstand that a plan was "total machinery" [see Lamour and Lagardelle, "De l'homme abstrait"]. Le Corbusier expounded on the transformations about to be achieved in the first issue of Plans: The world is not coming to an end?but coming back to life. . . . A great adventure is beginning; great changes offortune are imminent; the surge of change will be both wide and deep. We are about to see new things. . . . There is a new perspective in the world... our minds, already learning to cope with the new dimensions ahead, have already freed themselves, have already torn themselves away from the table cluttered with the remains ofa centuries-old meal: those rotting cities, those infinitely subdivided fields, that incoherent distribution of population, that morality now becoming asfragile as a bubble. Our minds are insisting on a clean tablecloth. ["Invite a 1'Action" 00] The neosyndicalists placed their faith in a planned economy, a revitalized culture, and a new European federation. The basis for this new world order was the abolishment of capital, since money was the true evil leading to rivalry, exploitation, and war. To overcome the three crises of industry, agriculture, and confidence [spirit], three crises which affected the le monde blanc (the white world) in the 1930s and produced an inhuman civilization where man was no longer the master of his destiny, his machines, or his work. Plans proposed the rational reorganization of collective civilization by assembling five major unions out of the nations of Europe: the Baltic and Scandinavian states, the Mediterranean states, the West European states, the Danube states, and Ger? many.10 Eventually the orienting axes of latitude, for so long a dominant paradigm for the Western world, was replaced with a longitudinal axes along "natural" north-south alignments. France now formed a Latin federation with other nations associated with 10. "La ligne generale," Plans 4 (Apr. 1931): 5-6; "La ligne generale," Plans 6 (June 1931): 5-8; "Premiere etape," Plans 7 (My 1931): 4-8.


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the Mediterranean basin: Spain, Italy, and those of North Africa. In addition there was a Central European Federation, an Oriental Federation (the USSR), and the British Empire. This network of federations, it was hoped, would produce economic stability and peace. There are no unmediated maps: whether it is the regional redistribution of France or north-south realignments, these geographical illusions constitute the production of space. The neosyndicalists projected their ideas of a new world order onto the maps of France, Europe, and the colonial empire, forcing incompatibles together and overriding established boundaries. It was not an innocent remark to write of the "white world of the west," of regionalism, ethnography, and race, of north-south axes?each statement drew boundaries and distinctions at the very moment when aviation eradicated these markers of space. The neosyndicalists converted the chaos of the economic depression and the political chaos ofthe 1930s into a pictorial atlas of space according to the same schema as that achieved in an aerial view. It is not farfetched to draw parallels with the discipline, organizational management, and perceptual revolution engendered by the word "aviation" and the "general line" that the neosyndicalists sought. As Le Corbusier wrote in 1937, The world is coming back to life! This is the slogan before the eyes of the visitor to the Pavilion as he exits from the demonstration of urbanism of the temps nouveaux. It is necessary to know how to extend contingent miseries, to be transported above local events, in order to acquire this special view?this on high, which grasps the DIRECTION of masses in bird's-eye view?from movement. [Des canons 137]

The Airplane Indicts. Every technological invention opens up new routes of discov? was the case of the airplane and the aerial view in the twentieth century. ery?such The polar opposite to the microscope, which visually explored the realm of the inficould not nitely small, the aerial view revealed space so vast that its comprehension be absorbed in a single glance. It revealed the constant struggle man had made against nature until he had finally subdued the space of the world and turned it into a gigantic geometric representation. From the air a new geometry rearranged the image into new representational forms: boundary lines of fields slashed zigzags across the terrain, linear traces of canals, roads, and railways left their sharp clear marks; elevated plateaus and depression stood out in relief, windswept deserts and ice fields appeared as serrated expanses while mountains turned into heavily creased folds. Take an airplane. [Le Corbusier commanded in Radiant City./ Fly over our 19th century cities, over those immense sites encrusted with row after row of houses without hearts, furrowed with their canyons of soulless streets. Look down and judge for your self. 1 say that these things are the signs ofa tragic denaturing of human labor. They are the proof that men, subjugated by the titanic growth ofthe machine, have succumbed to the machinations ofa world powered by money. The architects ofthe past hundred years did not buildfor men: they built for money. [341] Flying across the wild stretches of South America, on his way back to Buenos Aires in 1929, Le Corbusier observed the settler's farms, then hamlets, villages, small towns, and finally the capital city [Radiant City 81]. His reactions were guided by a visual framework he saw from the sky: all South American towns since the conquest had developed according to a living unit, the cuadra (square) with sides 110 meters in


length. It was a simple geometrical unit determined by the length of a man's stride and the distance he was able to see and thus was suitable for the control and exploitation of the land itself. But the aerial view revealed an appalling disease on the land, the wasting of an organism drained of its vital energy by a lack of vigilance. At the end of the jour? ney appeared the immense scab of Buenos Aires: a skin disease spreading beyond all proportion. Where nature would have provided the requisite structure of viscera, lungs, had allowed an organic form of life to exceed bones, and limbs, human heedlessness the dimensions of its cellular structure. Now the city was nothing more than a mass of protoplasm [Radiant City 81]. In Aircraft (1935), a book that he repeats word for word in sections of The Eour Routes (1941), Le Corbusier continued the same theme: the plane accuses! We can no longer escape its truth and ignore the horror of a city's physical dirt or the failure of moral integrity in those responsible for such disorder. The plane has enlightened us. The plane has seen. The plane had indicted. We now have a record, aero-photographic plates, which proves that at all costs we must save our cities. [Routes 81] With the eye of an eagle, the plane examines cities: London, Paris, Berlin, New York, Algiers, Buenos Aires, Sao Paulo. Sinister balance sheets! [Routes 81] The plane exposes kind's expense. the raw fact: cities have been built solely to make money at man-

And the plane observes, works quickly, sees quickly, never tires. In addition, the plane plunges deep into realism. Its implacable eye penetrates the misery of cities and brings back the photographic record for those who lack the courthe air. age to go and see for themselves?from Such are the great cities of the nineteenth century, unfinished, cruel, greedy. The plane inaugurates in a superlative degree a new stage of conscious? The cities must be rescued from disaster; their ness, a modern conscience. rotten sections must be destroyed; new cities must be built. [Routes 81] The aerial photograph tells the spectator exactly and with realistic detail what was the state of urban existence. From on high, Le Corbusier continued in Des canons, des munitionsl Merci! Des logis ... s.v.p. (1937), each city appears to have a precise face and enables the eye of the mind to see clearly, exactly, and completely. Yet town authorities keep these aerial photographs in their file drawers, not on the walls of their offices. They never learn to interpret these views. Faced daily with such scandalous records, or so Le Corbusier believed, these men would no doubt quickly decide not to tolerate such leprous and fatal disarticulation and start immediately to work for the transformation of cities and life [Des canons 7; Home ofMan 59]. The Bird's-eye View. In Precisions, Le Corbusier began to outline the difference be? tween the aerial view and that seen by the eyes of man placed one meter, sixty centimeters above the ground. He reiterates this position in The Home ofMan (1942), a small book he wrote with Francois de Pierrefeu. Utilizing the eye as a tool of registration, the man on the ground understands that walking creates diversity in the spectacle before his eyes. But he has left the ground and flown in an airplane. The aerial view offers a


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different reading resolved this view:

without ambiguity.


he must learn to interpret

At 500 to 1,000 meters altitude, and at 180 to 200 kilometers an hour, the view from a plane is not rushed but slow, unbroken, the most precise one can wish: one can recognize the red or black spots on a cowskin. Everything takes on the precision ofa tracing; the spectacle is not rushed but very slow, unbroken; along with the plane, it is only the steamer on sea or thefeet ofthe pedestrian on a road that can give what may be called sight at human scale: one sees, the eye transmits calmly. Whereas what I call inhuman and hellish are the sights offeredfrom trains and automobiles, even bicycles. I exist in life only ifl can

The airplane flies over estuaries, along great rivers, high above the savannah, and it looks down at virgin forests. It presents a new eye: "the eye of a bird transplanted into the head of a man." It enables the eye to perceive immense deltas, the reed beds of atolls, the slender groups of palm trees, and it reveals the movement of water in the subsoil and the patterned progression of green veins across the yellow plain [Radiant City 78-79]. This aerial view constitutes a new way of looking and interpreting the im? ages of space. To rational analysis, comparison, and deduction is added this firsthand Corbusier believed, the interpreted view?Le experience of the eye. Perception?or was more forceful than mere conception. It led to synthesis and action. The bird's-eye view offers a unique observation: it enables the eye to discern the characteristics of various regions of the world and gauge their diversity. The different values the eye observes as "characters" of nature become guides to human creations. These varied elements combine into clear symphonies: counterpoint and fugue, con? struction and nature.12 "Nature is a thing of mathematical characters and inevitable con? sequences City 79]. of purposes. / And the purposes are determined by the characters" [Radiant

Returning to this theme in the 1940s, Le Corbusier claimed the aerial view enabled man to see "that which hitherto was only seen by the spirit." "The whole spirit of our plans will be illuminated and amplified by this new point of view" [Home ofMan 125]. The bird's eye view has determined that "[p]lans are no longer simply a game of the mind; henceforth they see themselves./ And the spirit proclaims their order and their grandeur" [Home ofMan 154]. The bird's-eye view, he continued, is an important innovation; it enables the mind to see clearly and allows for the development ofthe third dimension of height. A great part of the confusion that exists in the reading of plans has come about because the eyes of man are only one meter, sixty centimeters above the ground. The aerial view resolves this confusion by allowing a different reflexive read? ing without ambiguity [Trois etablissements 138-41].

77. Precisions 7; Home ofMan 725. He recounts in The Radiant City that, "[sjtanding on our own twofeet, with our eyes a little more than five feet from the earth, a distance that has become the basis (the geometrician 's tool) ofall our mesuration, ofall the sensations, that affect us, ofall the perceptions that unleash thepoetic tide in us, with this human height as a foundation (feet on the ground, eye such a short distance above it) we have established our accepted scale of dimensions: all our notions of height and ofextent. . . . And on this basis we have observed and noted the characteristics ofthe reed, ofthe tree, ofthe mountain" [79]. 12. "The music of our constructions [and by music Le Corbusier means thepoetic emanations these constructions create] will be produced by the interplay of the characters we have created. Isn't that how it works in Aeschylus too? " /Radiant City 797-


Part Two: A New Cartography The Cartographic View. Aviation, the herald of a new age, forged an indissoluble bond linking the vast subject of architecture to city planning. From the airplane, the earth looked different and so must architecture, city plans, and geographical maps. Maps colonize space by extracting from the ground specific geographical facts and silencing others. Maps are surfaces on which selected facts are exhibited or as Michel de Certeau described, they "form tables of legible results" [121]. Yet maps also enable a spatial imaginary to play over their surface: one can trace out routes to follow, dream about places to inhabit, or project specific visions onto the lay of the land. During his trip to South America in 1929, Le Corbusier poured over the maps of Argentina blending together regional facts with exotic adventures, raphy. / . . . measured the lines of the rivers, the great stretches ofplains and plateaus, the barrier of the Andes, studied the network of railroads that already irrigate your country. I knew for the first time that Argentina is immense, that it begins at the latitude ofthe Chaco whose Indians are naked and that it goes all the way to the icebergs, to the Tierra del Fuego. . . . I flew far over your country by plane. I saw that it was empty, that there was enormous room for a fantastic expansion. [Precisions 202] a form of erotopog-

Sensing that people came to Argentina from all over the world bringing with them an explosive energy, he imagined that Buenos Aires was predestined for greatness and consequently Le Corbusier confessed that, like these immigrants, he too was "charged as full of energy as a dynamo" [Precisions 202]. Returning to Buenos Aires, this time on a hydroplane, he saw the city from 500 meters up in the air. It was a bristling tumultuous city, a "sign of a prodigious vitality, but also of improvisation, of incoherence." Against this painful sight his cartographic eye juxtaposed an ordered arrangement of glass skyscraper prisms on an enormous platform of reinforced concrete jutting out into the sea. As he imagined, the simple horizontal line where the pampa met the ocean would be punctuated with crystalline cubes lit up at night.13 His travels took him onward to Rio de Janeiro, a remarkable city that clear? ly enchanted him. He began his account with a refrain "when one is in Rio de Janeiro . . ." and proceeded to describe the blue bays, sky and water, the white quays and pink beaches, and the successive promontories failing into the sea. Taking on the mantle of a conquistador, he labeled the terrain "a geography map of the time of the Conquest, with its gulfs, its mountains, its boats; the inscriptions are the lights at night, on the cliffs. . . ." He embellished the site by bestowing metaphors and tropes on the land. The high plateau and the mountains coming down to meet the sea were like the back of a hand spread open. A second metaphor found the promontories to be like "a sort of disorderly green flame above the city always, everywhere, and which changes appearance at one's every step" [Precisions 234].

13. Le Corbusier believed the destiny of Buenos Aires lay toward the east. He crossed the city and arrived at the sea, actually in the Rio, at the very point where the reasonsfor the city's existence were crystallized. Where the ground of the pampa met the Rio a steep slope, the Barranca, fell away, keeping the city behind it. To overcome this shift of levels, Le Corbusier pro? jected an enormous platform of reinforced concrete over the customs warehouses and the docks, over the railway lines, out into the sea, sinking great concrete piles into its estuary. Here he laid the foundations for his skyscraper business district /Precisions 205, 208].


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He was ecstatic with the site and returned to his refrain: "when one has climbed the favelas of the blacks" high up on the steep hills where they have painted their houses of wood and wattle in many bright colors. Placed almost on the edge ofthe cliffs, the front of the house is raised on piloti, while the door is on the back toward the hillside. There is pride in the eye of the black, for he has a view of the sea, the harbors, the islands, the mountains, the estuaries and "the eye of the man who sees wide horizons is prouder, wide horizons confer dignity; that is the thought of a planner" [235]. He was itching to project his own imaginary cartography onto this space. When one has gone up in an airplane, glided like a bird over its bays and peaks, and torn away in a single glance all the secrets it hides from the man on the ground, then Le Corbusier confessed, one understands the lay of the land. By plane, everything becomes clear to the cartographic eye and "you have felt ideas being born, you have entered into the body and the heart of the city, you have understood part of its destiny . . . a violent desire comes to you, crazy perhaps, to try a human enterprise here too, the desire to play a match for two, a match of the 'affirmation the 'presence of nature"' [Precisions 235-36]. when one has taken a longflight you. Ideas attack you when, for three months, one has been under pressure, when one has descended into the depths of architecture and planning, when one is on the way to deductions, when everywhere one envisages, one feels, one sees consequences. In the plane I had my sketchbook and as everything became clear to me I sketched. I expressed the ideas of modern planning. [Precisions 236] In this sketch of Rio de Janeiro, Le Corbusier drew an immense expressway joining at mid-height the fingers of the promontories and connecting the city with the high hinterlands of its plateau [Precisions 242]. This viaduct architecture had a highway on top and housing below, and each apartment was equipped with hanging gardens and window walls raised high above the ground. "It is almost the nest of a gliding bird" as if his airplane had touched down on this ephemeral land [Precisions 244]. Out at sea, he took up his sketchbook again and drew the mountainous peaks and the great faultless horizontal beltline he had conceived suspended above the city. The whole site began to speak, on the water, on earth, in the air; it spoke of architecture. This discourse was a poem of human geometry and of immense natural fantasy. The eye saw something, two things: nature and the product of the work ofmen. The city announced itself by the only line that can harmonize with the vehement caprice ofthe mountains; the horizontal. [Precisions 243] Next he took a flight over Sao Paulo where he commanded the pilot to fly low over the ground toward the center of the city so he could see its outline, where rises occurred in the land, and where the business district pushed upward toward the sky, an indisputable sign of disease. By automobile, he measured the time it took to travel from point to point over valleys, contours, and slopes. He grew to understand the general topography of hills and hollows, and the inadequate network of streets that tried to go straight in a hilly terrain. And then suddenly he was seized with the line 45 kilometers in length from hill to hill, and then "These straight horizontals are the expressways coming ing it. You won't fly over the city with your autos, but solution: a second into the you will he drew a horizontal line at right angles. city, in reality crossdrive over it. Do not of mankind' against or with

over the city like a bird gliding,

ideas attack


build expensive arches to hold up your viaducts, but carry your viaducts on reinforced concrete structures that will make up offices in the center of the city and homes in the outskirts." He called these horizontal expressways "earthscrapers" and wondered, "is there anything more elegant than the pure line of a viaduct in an undulating site and more varied than its substructures sinking into the valleys to meet the ground?" [Preci? sions 241-42]. From hindsight, Le Corbusier would write in 1935 that '"[I]deas' can be expressed through diagrams," proclaiming that his South American trip was a stimulant for clearcut "energy ideas" [Radiant City 221]. Reflecting back over his failure to implement any ofhis many urban schemes beginning with the "City Mondiale" at Geneva in 1929 and ending with his various proposals for Algiers throughout the 1930s, Le Corbusier valiantly declared the more difficult the adventure, the more barred by obstacles mak? ing his plans unrealizable, the more his enthusiasm grew. He recalled the grand lyrical exercises he planned for the cities of South America and the airplane flights over the pampas, the savannahs, and the virgin forests, along the great rivers where future cities of colonization began to appear, farms of the pioneers, towns on the bend of rivers, the and disarticulated cities on the delta. And suddenly he realized that the "Radi? ant City" was born at that moment, a modern doctrine of urbanization replacing the unspeakable misery of existing conditions [Le Corbusier, "L'urbanisme et le lyrisme"]. By the early 1940s, in The Home of Man (1942), Le Corbusier's voice became more commanding. He believed, under the authoritarian rule of the Vichy government, the hour had struck to put his plans into action. "The plane flying over forest, rivers, mountains and seas reveals some fundamental laws, simple principles which prevail in nature, and as a result we may hope that dignity, strength and a proper sense of values will become apparent in the aspect of our new cities" [Routes 110]. Now a pact can be made with nature, it can enter into the lease. Before magnificent palm and banana trees, and tropical splendors that animate a site, such as Rio de Janeiro, one can install an armchair. Suddenly the four obliques of a perspective are formed. Your room is installed before the site. The whole sea-landscape enters our room. The pact with nature has been sealedl By means available to town planning it is possible to enter nature into the lease. Rio de Janeiro is a celebrated site. But Algiers, Marseilles, Oran, Nice and all the Cote d'Azur, Barcelona and many maritime and inland towns can boast of admirable landscapes. [Home ofMan 87] The calculator and the poet united in the townplanner unravelfrom the tangle an unexpected solution. The tracery they create becomes integral with the country side. The town lies like a garment upon the body ofthe site. Architecture attains majesty and the citizens partake of "essential joys." Apact is signed with nature. [Home ofMan 89] immense

The Lesson of the Desert. In both books Aircraft and The Four Routes, Le Corbusier described another lesson in town planning that he learned from the aerial view. He tells a story about a flight from Algiers, south over the Atlas mountains toward the cities of the M'zab in the desert. This was a land of thirst and death?to which the Mozabites had been banished a thousand years before when they built seven cities ofthe M'zab for winter and laid out seven oases in the desert for summer. These latter cities were filled with date and apricot trees, the lush foliage of peach or pomegranate trees; they were


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dazzling spectacles of water and verdure, offering security and coolness. Their mud houses were molded by hand, built by "touching regard." The plans of these houses should be preserved, Le Corbusier warned, lest some accident erases them from sight. On the other hand, the winter cities, bathed in the light of the pitiless sun, gained the appearance of "a hell of broken stones, narrow and steep declining streets, silent walls, stagnation. . . ." But from the airplane, as they circled above one of these cit? ies, spiraling downward, plunging toward the ground and just clearing the roofs, Le Corbusier was seized with a new awareness. "The plane had shown us everything, and what it had revealed carried an important lesson" [Routes 109]. It revealed the entire layout of the city, enabling the eye to penetrate behind the blind street wall that kept the pedestrian at bay. The aerial view enabled his interpretive eye to see that each of the gay little houses opened by means of three ample arcades onto an exquisite garden. . . . Every house ofthe M'zab, yes, every house without exception, is a centre ofhappiness, serenity, isfounded upon the solid rock of fundamental truth. This city exists to serve mankind, to serve both body and soul. In the M'zab, no single family was allowed to go without its arcade and its garden. [Routes 110] Here was the interpretive lesson: a gulf separated these desert tribes from the cruel, "inhuman white civilization." In the latter, a relentless thirst for money destroyed the sacred rule of nature. The plane fly ing over forest, rivers, mountains and seas reveals some funda? mental laws, simple principles which prevail in nature, and as a result we may hope that dignity, strength and a proper sense of values will become apparent in the aspect of our new cities. [Routes 110] The airplane is the mark of a new age, it is the peak of a huge pyramid of mechanical progress that rushes forward into a new era on widespread wings. "The aeroplane, in the sky, carries our hearts above the humdrum of daily living. The plane has given us a 'bird's-eye' view. / And when the eye sees clearly, the mind makes wise decisions" [Routes 111]. The Law of the Meander. Le Corbusier noted that "[f]rom the plane I saw sights that one may call cosmic. What an invitation to meditation, what a reminder of the funda? mental truths of our earth!" [Precisions 4]. One of these truths he baptized the law of the meander. Fly ing over the great rivers of South America?the Parana, the Uruguay, and the Paraguay Rivers?he was struck with a revelation. Studying their courses, he understood how they followed the law of physics on the steepest gradient, but when they flowed across flat terrain, erosion caused a meander to appear. Something had disturbed the law of nature. He found there were parallels between this theorem and that of creative thinking and human invention. "Following the outlines of a meander from above, I understood the difficulties met in human affairs, the dead ends in which they get stuck and the apparently miraculous solutions that suddenly resolve appar? ently inextricable situations." The law ofthe meander quickly became for Le Corbusier a personal "symbol" under which he introduced his propositions for reforms in both architecture and urbanism. He mused, "[f|rom the plane, one understands many other things" [Precisions 4]. As the worldwide economic crisis ofthe 1930s deepened and as Le Corbusier met constant opposition to his great works of urbanism, he expanded on his theorem of the


meander. Now he posited that water is a fluid and thus mobile, it flows according to the law of gravity. From then on it is a matter of simple arithmetic. A rivulet meets another rivulet and width is added. These rivulets form a stream, which meets another stream and together their widths form a great river. The river flows toward the sea and reaches a delta where its powerful flow is subdivided before flowing gently through the estuary and out into the open sea.14 From the airplane, the eye can observe, however, where water as it follows its inevitable course to the sea, meets an obstacle, a rock. This obstacle causes a meander to be formed, a tiny break in the water's relentless forward flow. Erosion begins as water is forced to eat away at the opposite bank, causing it to crumble. Forced back to the opposite side, the same erosion takes place lower down on the stream. Because of this erosion, water deserts the straight line of gravity and begins to zigzag. Its flow to the sea having been obstructed by an abnormality, it is forced to form a meander. And so too, the grand works of urbanism were forced to zigzag when they met the rock of opposition. In South America, the bird's-eye view from the airplane revealed meanders. In terms of human achievements this was a demoralizing erything sink into silt, where civilizations disappear and great works less a miraculous energy is able to break through the entanglement. observed that nature does not stop before such obstacles; it finds a perilous maladies. When the time comes, the meander is dispensed with; the river breaks through and returns to a straight course once more. Though, even so, this new route will still be encumbered for a long while with parasites, with evil vapors, with fevers and rotting decadence. And so it is also in architecture and city planning; in sociology and eco? nomies; in politics}5 All ofthe many city plans that Le Corbusier designed during the 1930s and 1940s came to naught, blocked by forces standing in the stream of their energetic flow. In 1945 Le Corbusier returned to the law of the meander but with a twist of meaning, for now he believed the aerial route had definitively surpassed all terrestrial routes and this had major political consequences. He explained: The earth is born without political frontiers: it is round and continuous; the human species has multiplied across the four quarters ofthe world, following laws of climate, of water-shed, ofwinds. . . . Roads follow the shortest routes compatible with the slopes in their path. Obstacles assert their pressure on this tracery: rivers, mountains, and the routes establish themselves through? out millenniums. They are relatively predetermined. . . . The three routes em14. Radiant City 79. The flow of water is a function oftwo constants: size and speed. This lesson must guide the city planner when he establishes bedsfor the modern fluid ofthe automobile. Water circulates in an unbroken fashion except where it finds a hole. There it forms a lake and is stationary. This too must guide the planner: parking is a lake of traffic [80]. 15. Radiant City 80. He compares the parable ofthe meander to man's life and to generations that follow. Long years of fruitfulness can be followed by decadence and collapse. The world's seasons and man's have different scales and do not always coincide. Was he born too soon or too late or at the right conjunction? I Life pursues a natural impulse toward organization. Cells reproduce themselves; they divide, multiply and form amorphous agglomeration. An intention appears, a direction is apparent and an organism is born and further ramifications take place. meanders within view to see ev? are engulfed, unYet Le Corbusier solution even for


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bodied in the earth's surface, the roadway, the waterway, the iron way, all have their destinies fixed by the nature of the terrain: Geography. The new route ofthe air goes straight, cuts straight, goes everywhere, above all indifferent to geographical obstacles. [Concerning 45] Plans for reconstruction took on great urgency during World War II, consequently Le Corbusier decided "to play the game of the day" and "to scout out the pathways to tomorrow" [Looking 77]. He intuitively knew that an equation was a tool in nature, allowing diverse elements to be brought together, and that a meander accumulated these elements, cascading forward and accelerating in speed, until they broke free and flowed in a straight line. On Descartes's coordinate space he could visualize these moving ele? ments across geometricized space [see Latour]. With one line, one sketch, it is possible to lay down on a sheet of paper the figurative representation ofa thought, a cycle, an era, even one still in the future. The figures form an equation; this graphic algebra has its rules; the velocity of it lets the explorer take giant steps over the undergrowth and bare the principle. And so emerge the guidelines ofa state already begun but whose meaning had not been apparent to all. [Looking 11] Ifa serious attempt to ponder the problems of aviation had been madefifty, or even just twenty or thirty years ago, couldn 't it have guided a whole swarm of decisions which had, instead to be taken amidst the perilous improvisation of sentiment or interest or panic? [Looking 78] But now the hour was striking, the time had come when the world must absolutely look ahead. The cascade of elements accumulated in the meander's flow must eventually break free and flow forward in a straight line. Le Corbusier drew a wedge of territory containing the diversified features of a continent: suggestive of Europe with a sea to the its north and south, an ocean to the west, and another sea to the east. This watershed? slopes, valleys, and plains?clearly depicted in an aerial view and created natural path? ways for streams, brooks, and rivers that led man and things down to the sea [Looking 78,81]. The purpose of our exploration is to discern, from amidst the present confu? sion, the efficient, economic and elegant process governing the regular acts of a society extending over a territory. A measuring instrument should be designated by which to appraise the value ofthe solutions that are found. . . . Efficiency considered, not in relation to money but in relation to man, man being installed in his environment, the environment specific to his action, his existence. What is actually involved is the occupation ofthe ground for various pur? poses: to produce and to trade in order to consume (feed, clothe and amuse). [Looking 83] A Global View?the Compression of Space and Time. Le Corbusier was aware as he traveled across South America, that communication technology?be it the locomotive, the newspaper, photography, or the cinema?was a conquistador, crushing before its advance regional customs and habits, ways of acting and dressing. Through these new communication devices anyone could know, hear, and feel any other part of the world. All landscapes became familiar, all songs known. The archive of knowledge about the


world had increased, but with its accumulations a sense of mystery about the world had disappeared. Now the last white spaces of the map were filled out: one had seen the blocks of ice of the South Pole and the ripples of desert sand formations up close. "And the locomotive has brought you the suits of London and the fashions of Paris. You are wearing bowlers!" [Precisions 27]. "Airplanes go everywhere; their eagle eyes have searched the deserts and penetrated the rain forest. Hastening interpenetration, the railway, the telephone unceasingly runs the country into the city, the city into the country" [Precisions 26]. Furthermore, the airplane abetted this globalization for the spherical mass of the earth was without borders. Only the state depended on the notion of boundaries: a ter? ritorial unit with frontiers that need to be defended. Yet the telegraph, the airplane, and the camera have eradicated these boundary lines. Le Corbusier explained that a frontier is built up in stages: first the family, then the tribe, and later the region. A centripetal center of attraction emerges and another one elsewhere and in between these two fields of attraction a frontier occurs. When two regions conflict with each other, the normal void at their frontiers is filled and the two rise up in arms. That frontier of dissension, Le Corbusier was well aware had risen once again in the 1930s [Radiant City 193]. Because the beginning of any machine age with its new forms of transportation always creates disorder and economic chaos, this troublesome situation abets the build? ing up of a frontier of dissension. Yet a new scale of national administration needed to be reorganized on economic and spiritual terms. New regional administrative centers could engender new social aggregations determined by climate, topography, geography and race. These would be natural regions, spontaneously formed, and they would in some cases overlap and replace existing political frontiers, or so the neosyndicalists believed. Next Le Corbusier considered different means of communication?railroads, that they too did not work ships, and airplanes, mail, telegraph, and radio?finding in harmony. How then could it be possible to contemplate the development of a new world unity? He laid out the facts: there are different natural features of geography, climate, races, and even those tyrannical interior barriers within mankind, the various natural languages. Yet Le Corbusier commanded, open the atlas, consider the world as a whole, and base your thinking on the cosmic reality that controls everything?the sun. The map ofthe world reveals that the machine-age civilization is restricted to areas where the sun is not too hot or excessively cold [Radiant City 194]: The sun's kisses are savage at the equator (where they are perpendicular), inoperative at the poles (where they are tangential) and in between as we move along every possible variation of temperature and therefore of climate and topography (customs, races, pigments, temperature, education, industries, products, morality, etc). [Radiant City 109] Consequently Le Corbusier began to reorder this map: the true line of trade must be longitudinal, not latitudinal as is the common practice. The spread of commerce eastward and westward had caused territories to get in each other's way, to compete with each other, and it consequently had ignored all the space of the globe to the north and south. The world needed new axes of expansion for peoples pressing against political frontiers, allowing them to leave the frontiers empty, and protect the world from war between nations [Radiant City 194]. The Vichy government under the leadership of Marshal Petain, the World War I hero of Verdun, made its compromise with the German invaders in the summer of 1940. Petain promised a new order, a National Revolution. His revolution embodied


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much of what the neosyndicalists had promoted: regional decentralization, corporate syndicates, agrarian reform, elite leadership, and youth programs. Both Petain and the syndicalists sought a new unity, an organic wholeness to cure a fragmented nation. Le Corbusier wrote in The Home ofMan (1942), "[n]ow is the hour to consider the whole country in its days of unity." Under Vichy an elite body of men would become the lawgivers and as they had done throughout history, these elites would state the relationship between man and the universe, between the great and the small nations, between the soil and its boundary. It is they who must assure the hierarchy of things in the art of building. Roads, houses, urban equilibrium, rural tracts, geographic boundaries, such are the elements of their plastic game. [132] These new lawgivers will become the modelers of towns and the creators of order in the countryside. "At the threshold of the house they will install a vigilant guardian: the conditions of nature. On their coming, the revolution will be accomplished" [132]. Le Corbusier turned to the past for help in achieving this revolution. He recounted that on the Acropolis of Athens, the lawgiver knew how to place the temples as sounding boards of the surrounding mountains. It was the lawgiver's art that enabled him to "discern the spirit of those lines which can fuse the human creation and the natural cre? ation into one whole" [134]. And so it will be with the modeler of contemporary towns, who gathers within himself the entire countryside and the whole topography. "He will determine the built volumes. / He will distribute them upon the ground ofthe town. He will set upon the terrain a statue by which his spirit, through the course of years, will express itself in architectural manifestations" [135]. The airplane with its aerial view has given man a new understanding of geography, of the importance of the land which has preceded, existed, and remained while many a civilization has passed with time. "Geography speaks, proclaiming certain fundamental truths." Where men have made contact with each other, established a flow of information, and explored new territories, there the discourse of geography has penetrated as well. The lawgivers will bring the fruits of modern work to everyone.

So that the body of our civilization becomes work itself: the fact "work" will be reconsidered, discussed; some new propositions submitted; some restraints imposed; some arrangement taken finally to equilibrate the forces of the world, to make the sap circulate, to expand life, to make it regenerate, to have the springtime bloom ofthis second cycle of machine civilization. [Trois etablissements 132]

Le Corbusier again turns to history to buttress this claim. He notes that ancient Rome, installed within the heart of the Mediterranean with its empire and its caravans coming from faraway horizons bearing with them rare and exotic products, has ceased to be the center of the world. Population has spread over the entire surface of the earth along with its gigantic powers of production, and means of circulation and transport [Trois etablissements 132]. When the world returns to peace, new places of production will be created where primary and secondary materials will be transformed into consumer products. In the first machine age, these places were dispersed but in the second ma? chine age they will be distributed according to the law "Geography speaks. Here is the first discourse, a dustries on French territory." Traditionally geography be located close to primary materials, next to sources ofthe "three establishments." map of the redistribution of inhas determined that industries of power, along transportation


routes, near labor markets and markets for consumption. And yet there are exceptions to this rule of geography: it can be overturned by individual will, and new transportation routes can determine the relocation of industries into new linear cities. "A map of the redistribution of industries in France clearly showed the presence of some industrial regions situated in the east along a line drawn from Caen to Marseille, and a series of small industrial centers spread across the territorial ensemble" 134]. [Trois etablissements

Part Three: Geomorphic Aerial

Structures on the Land

Warfare. While considering plans for the future development of Moscow in Le Corbusier commented on a formidable menace threatening all urban exis? 1930, tence: that of aerial warfare. Lieutenant Colonel Vauthier had just given Le Corbusier a copy of his book titled The Aerial Danger and the Future ofthe Country}6 Now Le Corbusier understood that the air would be the new theater of military operations and that threat of aerial warfare emanated not only from explosive projectiles that would destroy a city's built structures but also from poison gas and chemical warfare that would asphyxiate its inhabitants, and from flammable liquids that would spread a firestorm beyond imagination. A city could be destroyed all at once. But it just so happened, quite without realizing it, that Le Corbusier had already provided a necessary defense against this new danger of aerial warfare in his studies for Urbanisme (1925) and in his book Precisions (1930). He had proposed the construction of housing in reinforced con? crete, a material strong enough to withstand the impact of bombs and to be fireproof. He had also proposed these structures be isolated in great open spaces, that housing, commerce, and industry be located in separate zones, and that the entire built surface of the city be reduced. These were essential conditions needed to lessen the exposure of built structures to aerial attack but also to contain the spread of any conflagration. To avoid the disaster of poisonous gas, his proposal for suppressing meager courtyards and narrow corridor streets, along with the provision of wide open spaces and housing raised on piloti, would allow sufficient wind and water from protected hydrants or large open-air swimming pools to cleanse the air. Le Corbusier admitted that his housing and planning schemes had been offered as solutions for the problem of work and leisure in the first machine age, but, recently, the French military having studied different plans for the development of Paris discovered that only Le Corbusier's earlier schemes pro? vided adequate resistance to the dangers of aerial warfare.17 With Paris under German occupation since July 1940, the question of how to evacuate in case of air raids and carpet bombing was raised more and more frequently in the 1940s. Le Corbusier knew what could be expected: bottlenecks at every street corner and road jams along the routes of exodus. He wrote in Four Routes (1941) that it would be "a stampede, and, in case of machine-gunning, a massacre" [44]. "Noxious gases [would] pour into our trench-like streets and into those wells which our courtyards provide; one can't get rid of them; they achieve a maximum result: the population is asphyxiated" [48]. If only Le Corbusier's scheme, advocated in The Radiant City, 16. Precisions 192. "Communication Observations of Colonel Vauthier, 5th Congress CIAM," FLCD2(11). 17. In 1937, Colonel Vauthier was asked to speak to CIAM 5 gathering in Paris to dis? cuss the problems of housing and leisure. From the triple viewpoint of explosive projectiles, firebombs, and poisonous gases, he explained, it was necessary to reconsider architecture and urbanism [FLC A3-1-65; "Commentaires relatifs a Moscow et a la 'Ville Verte'" (12 March 1930)].


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Silent Account 101 Rachel Harrison

could be built, it would dramatically reduce the vulnerability of the city. In collaboration with the Air Defense Staff, Le Corbusier's housing projects could be equipped with bomb- and torpedo-proof roofing, and provided with antiexplosion chambers and floor plates able to resist any projectiles not already exploded. Instead of underground shelters becoming the collective tomb of all who gathered there, Le Corbusier advised, bomb shelters could be located in the highest stories of apartment houses, where pure air provided by air conditioners would allow the residents to breathe air in safety. Such defense measures, decreed for the safety of Parisians, would ensure the realization of rational town-planning schemes. "Or, vice versa, in rationalizing a plan for the city of Paris, to save her from the shameful chaos into which she is now plunged, we shall automatically satisfy the need for aerial defense" [51]. At the end of World War II, drawing sustenance from the past as he looked into the future, Le Corbusier reconsidered the reasons for the walled medieval city and why the wall had been abandoned: In French this [wall] is called une enceinte, and enceinte means both that which encloses and the pregnant woman who carries an infant in her womb. From these images we take the principle of a form deliberately shaped with the intention of being the vessel containing a city. Within it, a circulation net? work feeds the soil protected by the walls. Gates are opened in the enclosing wallsfrom which roads lead away into the countryside. [Looking 83] Then came a day when qffensive weapons made mock ofmilitary enclosures, when the advent ofthe airplane meant that for tresses no longer had ceilings? a recent event, since it datesfrom the First World War. [Looking 43] With aerial warfare, new considerations replaced the old set of tools, and new urban forms, the linear radiant city, developed for the entire nation. The Three Establishments. The basic elements of the postwar planning problem in Le Corbusier's list were the use of machines, new communication devices, information flows, and administrative requirements. These were the elements in the equation that would determine the form and location of future settlement patterns around the globe. Yet production?or work? for Le Corbusier was the activating force: it propelled men, materials, and goods over the four routes ofthe world, those established on the land and sea, the railroads, and through the air [Concerning 11-12]. The first two routes had de? veloped a rational network of roads and ship lanes, while the railroad, followed by the automobile, sowed disruption and chaos in its wake. Now the fourth route, or aviation, was a catalyst for great mutations taking place throughout the world. Having taken to the air, the destiny of man was truly revolutionary.18 Le Corbusier designed three different settlement patterns to shelter this new aerial civilization: units of agricultural production (food), linear industrial cities (manufacturing), and radio-concentric social cities (government, knowledge, commerce, and distri? bution). Due to the airplane, population could now be rationally redistributed and land more efficiently utilized. After a general territorial stocktaking, areas beyond the reach of the four routes would be allowed to sink into an indeterminate state, or possibly extinction.

18. FLC C3-19-71-2?note from Le Corbusier on see. 6 "Infrastructure Congres National de l Aviation Frangaise . . . Realisation and Technique . . . signalisation and telecommunity."


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Replying to a question addressed to him in 1945 concerning the mission and doc? trine of contemporary architecture, he replied: "Let us read the vital currents which flow through our land." Along the crucial meridian line that crosses the breadth of France, new volumes for housing, work, and leisure must be built from Le Havre to Algiers. The Allies understood that airlines were the lifeline of defense and their relentless precision bombing of the cities of Germany eventually won the war. They under? stand the same lifeline will be necessary when the war ends: For the time ofpeace, they are preparing vast aerial fleets, which will produce an unimagined upheaval in the transport ofmen and goods. We need not lose our heads. The skies ofour towns will be full ofthe war and the whistling of aircraft. And if one day the physicists and the mechanics succeed in annulling the racket the skies ofour towns will remain no less encumbered with engines, far and near, like the monstrous white mice that fill the skies of the fantastic paintings of Hieronymus Bosch. [Concerning 118, 121]

Since the first National Congress of French Aviation, in April 1945, aircraft have been banned from the skies of French towns.l The war has turned a new page, that of the aircraft, with its extraordinary speeds and its routes as straight as the trajectories of missiles. Enthusiasm and ingenuity join hands to prepare splendid berthsfor these machines: airports. Each town will claim one, according to its needs and rights./ It is dangerous to prophesy so soon af? ter the event [ofwar]. But at least we must try to see whether the three human establishments of our technical civilization, hitherto founded upon the three routes of earth, water, and iron, will find their futures foreclosed orfostered by thefourth route, that ofthe air. [Concerning 121] is so fostered, Le Corbusier continues, then the map of Europe will be rearranged: there will be a linear industrial city extending from the Atlantic coast to the Urals, from the North Sea to the Mediterranean. Within this network, industries will be transformed; they will house all sorts of specialists and manufacture a range of useful goods. They will embrace the radio-concentric cities already established by If civilization geography. must be taken within the geography of Europe the effect of which will be tojoin and to unite, and not to multiply the gun muzzles along frontiers which are ready for dissolution before the sap which is thrusting from the future./ This is the message that France can carry, if need be, to the inter? national conference tables to assist in the emergence ofa harmonious world from the chaos into which afoolhardy inattention has plunged us. Our snaiVs shell has become too small, we are left without any real shelter. It is time to Measures leave it and build another. [Concerning \22\

Conclusion. For thousands of years man lived within a ten- to twelve-mile radius of his shelter, but now, Le Corbusier noted, man can read about or view the entire world in dramatic new atlases of aerial photographs or documental films of infinite detail. The flow of information has exploded, revealing a variety of forms of nature, cultures, and climates. Sitting in his armchair man has access to geography (sites,fiora andfauna, harvest and industrial products); ?human races, as tallied by the illustrated document, the documentary



They are revealed to us in detail, their appearance, their customs, what they build; ?climates from one pole to the other, by way ofthe tropics and the equator, and from sea level to the highest altitudes. Such an abundance of information means so many inducements to greed, and also so much encouragement of self-centered withdrawal. [Looking 12] The first reaction to any expansion of horizons, as it has been throughout the his? tory of mankind, is anxiety, or fear of the new. To find some assurance, man retreats to [after 1870] was supreme, reigning over all teachinvestigate the past. "Archaeology It was an invitation to a refusal to create, to loss ofthe tastefor creating?taste for, ing. joy in the risk of, creating" [Looking 12]. Then specialized schools developed to train engineers in the new sciences; they experimented, followed their curiosity, made prodigious leaps forward in the applied sciences. They designed automobiles and airplanes that realized new speeds; they invented radios that wrapped the earth in countless waves, picked up and relayed by receiving sets. These became the new vehicles that spread every kind of thought or slogan around the globe, snowballing to gigantic proportions as they gathered momentum [Looking 14]. Man was overwhelmed, crushed under all these new discoveries; as a consequence society was divided into hostile classes, and individuals were bruised and restricted in their daily endeavors. The human viewpoint was lost, and the rightful place of machines was denied. "If a serious attempt to ponder the problems of aviation had been made fifty, or even just twenty or thirty years ago, couldn't it have guided a whole swarm of decisions which had, instead, to be taken amidst the perilous improvisation of sentiment or interest or panic?" [Looking 78]. In conclusion, Le Corbusier resorted to his famous refrain "the hour is striking": the time is favorable; now we absolutely must look ahead and plan for a world in which the aerial route will lie supreme. WORKS CITED Certeau, Michel de. The Practice of Everyday Life. Berkeley: U of California P, 1984. Corboz, Andre. "The Land as Palimpsest." Diogenes (Jan-Mar. 1982): 12-34. Pierre. "L'exploration aerienne" La decouverte aerienne du monde. Crochet-Damais, Ed. Paul Chombart de Lauwe. Paris: Horizons de France, 1948. 57-96. Fritzsche, Peter. A Nation of Fliers: German Aviation and the Popular Imagination. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1992. Golan, Romy. Modernity and Nostalgia: Art and Politics in France between the Wars. New Haven: Yale UP, 1995. Lagardelle, Hubert. "De l'homme abstrait a l'homme reel." Plans 1 (Jan. 1931): 2432. -. "La fin d'une culture." Plans 5 (May 1931): 9-16. Lamour, Philippe. "Notions claires pour une civilization occidentale." Plans 1 (Jan. 1931): 12-23. Latour, Bruno. "Centers of Calculation." Science in Action. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1987. 215-57. Le Corbusier (Charles-Edouard Jeanneret). Aircraft. London: Studio Publications, -. -. des munitions? Merci! Des logis . . . s.v.p. Paris: L'A. A. et Le Corbusier, 1938). The City ofTomorrow. 1929. Trans. Frederick Etchell. Cambridge: MIT P, 1971. Trans. of Urbanisme. Paris: Cres, 1925. 1935. Des canons,


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The Four of Sur les 4 "Invite a "La ligne "La ligne "La ligne

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"Premiere etape." Plans 1 (July 1931): 4-8. The Radiant City: Elements ofa Doctrine of Urbanism to Be Used as the Basis ofOur Machine-Age Civilization. Trans. Pamela Knight (pt. 1), Eleanor Levieux (pts. 2, 6), Derek Coltman (pts. 3, 4, 5, 7, 8). New York: Orion, 1967. Trans. of La ville radieuse. Boulogne-sur-Seine: L'Architecture d'aujourd'hui, 1935. Urbanisme des trois etablissements humains. 1945. Paris: Forces Vives aux Editions de Minuit. 1959.

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