Le Corbusier Le Grand: A grand publication worthy of its subject!

As advertised, Le Corbusier Le Grand weighs in at a whopping 20 plus pounds and measures 19.6 by 14.3 by 3.9 inches with over 600 pages. It stands (or lays) as a comprehensive archive of the work of Le Corbusier, arguably one of the most important modernist architects of the twentieth century, the scale of the book more than reflects the enormity of Le Corbusier’s ambitions and output.

Punctuated into ten chapters arranged thematically and chronologically, the reader is given a lengthy introduction, followed by a one page essay at the start of each chapter. While the essays are enlightening, the pictures and the letters are the real focus. Literal boxes of text accompany each spread and provide notable details. A real treasure is the book accompanying this book, a 625 page, far slimmer and apparently dull companion which contains translations of all of the French letters and documents in the larger work. For the real enthusiast these writings provide far more emotional and private insights into the life of Le Corbusier than candid pictures ever could.

Le Grande is not a biography of Le Corbusier, nor does it intend to be. Instead, it serves as a pictographic and textual accompaniment of his life. It’s easy to forget just how radical his work was, but just a few photographs make it clear. The early chapters of the book stand out because of their apparent anachronism, but the sparse and clear line drawings of Le Corbusier’s early projects thrill by their own merit. The details of his product work are included as well. One can see quite clearly, for example, the involvement of Charlotte Perriand in the design of Le Corbusier’s iconic LC2 armchair and accompanying LC4 chaise lounge. Even though her role has been relegated to a historical footnote, the documents and schematics betray just how involved she may have been, alongside rather comprehensive process work and drawings.

Brimming with photographs of projects and crisp pictures of tattered notebook pages, Le Grande seems to compile every document from Le Corbusier ‘s life, leaving the reader with the impression that they’ve uncovered some lost shoebox of memories, and maybe a level of detail that they don’t quite deserve to visit. Tiny details humanized an imposing historical figure. While many books have revealed the ideological themes of his manifestos or his constant ongoing struggle with politics and the press, the comprehensive scale of this tome illuminates the sorts of dark corners of life where the stark realities of human existence, foibles and all, tend to hide. Le Corbusier Le Grand works as a giant book full of little revelations.

by Robert Blinn

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~ by Austin Maguire on August 8, 2008.

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