From Publishers Weekly
Charles-Edouard Jeanneret, aka Le Corbusier, is a towering figure of modern architecture. He was also notoriously self-invented?from his self-aggrandizing nom d'architecte to his flagrant dissembling in his copious writings and sketchbooks about the origins of his ideas. Vogt, in this closely argued but readable book, takes as his task the reconstruction of the local and particular origins of the forms that Le Corbusier universalized. The nexus of his argument is the discoveries, beginning around 1850, of the remains of a prehistoric lake-dwelling culture in the Swiss Jura region, where Jeanneret grew up. Vogt shows how this historical awareness, awakened in Jeanneret as a child by its inclusion in the curriculum of the day, led to Le Corbusier's famous piloti, the reinforced-concrete columns he used to make his buildings seem to float above the ground. The author skillfully employs his subject's own argumentative technique of seamlessly blending word and picture?without resorting to the architect's trademark combination of soaring rhetoric and flimflam. Although Vogt's analysis of Le Corbusier's drawings and buildings (in particular, the unbuilt project for the League of Nations on Lake Geneva) is convincing and even moving, readers are left to ask themselves whether the architect, in suppressing public knowledge of his influences, doesn't demonstrate more wisdom toward them than Vogt has been in uncovering them. The author's "attempt to undercut the cult of genius" confronts the truth of Le Corbusier's genius itself: the artist's forceful reimagination of his antecedents?however obscure, provincial and contingent by themselves?makes the forms that result seem necessary, correct and inevitable. 265 illustrations.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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