Sunday, August 02, 2015

Le Corbusier's alleged fascism

We generally assume that modern art and architecture, as they became consolidated in the 20th century, are part of the enlightenment project for human advancement. If these figures have any political leanings, they will be on the left. Alas, there is no consistent pattern. 

As the recent blockbuster show of Futurism at the Guggenheim Museum showed, this movement allied itself with Mussolini's fascism, a connection that lasted until the end of the regime. Moreover, the architect Terragni, one of the outstanding modernists, is best known for his construction of the Casa del Fascio in Como. 

This background should be considered in relation to three new French books, alleging Le Corbusier's fascism. I have been looking at these books, and they all seem to be rush jobs, and hard to read. Still, the evidence seems largely circumstantial, based in part on personal links with eccentric figures such as Dr. Pierre Winter.

 Moreover, if Le Corbusier were such a right-winger, he would not have done some of his most impressive work of the thirties in the USSR. In truth he seems to have been an opportunist, willing to work for anyone who would hire him, with patrons as varied as the Catholic Church, the Indian state under Nehru, and the United Nations.

The French tend to treat Le Corbusier as the one and only leader in modern architecture. In fact he belonged to a larger group of figures, identified with the International Style and mainly originating in Germany. These figures do not have clean hands either. During WWI Gropius fell for the notion that the Jews had betrayed the Reich - though he later corrected himself. Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, arguably an even greater architect than Corbu, lingered in Germany for several years after Hitler's takeover, in the hope that he would get the commission for the Reichsbank building. In short, context is needed.

Paris (AFP) - Revelations that one of the world's most famous modern architects, Le Corbusier, was a "fascist" with links to France's WWII collaborationist...