Thursday, December 8, 2005

Le Courbusier's Revenge

The BBC was on my car radio as I drove home in the almost-freezing rain from a final exam tonight.

The story was part of a series on a kind of foreign exchange between Ibrahim (from Paris) and Arjmand (from Keighley, UK), who visited each other's countries, trying to figure out each others' countries delicate race relations. Tonight's episode had their joint commentary on conditions in the Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois, where the recent rioting was pretty bad.

The cause of the riots?

According to them, it was partly bad architecture.

The French suburb is home to huge, hulking, concrete housing projects, whose archictecture is sometimes characterised as "the New Brutalism," pioneered by Swiss-born architect Le Courbusier.

The boys commented, "They pack them in there like rats. Why wouldn't they riot?" Ibrahim and Arjmand seemed to prefer the 3-story flats with "gardens" (= yards, in American English) that are now the norm in UK public housing.

Design matters.


PotatoStew said...

I went to school for architecture, and I could never get into "Courbu" as he was called by some of my professors. His buildings almost always looked so uncomfortable.

Anonymous said...

I agree. Cabrini-Green and places like it look like they were designed to be penal. And often, you get the behavior you expect.

Anonymous said...

Give me Corbusier over a nondescript garden flat any day. It is the crowding like rats that is the problem, not that lovely building that you posted that looks like a Mondrian painting.

Anonymous said...

I am currently studying architecture. Badly designed factor is one of the factors, but we should not forget that architecture does not occur outside its context. The issue of race is an on going problem not just in France, but everywhere in the world especially in large urban areas.

Anonymous said...

What is most interesting to me about this story is that Le Corbusier once wrote that we had a choice... architecture or revolution, and that revolution could be avoided....
his architecture could not end revolution, although, i would have to say it may not be his falt, the work i have seen by the master is spectacular, it is the work of the talentless - corbu want to be -architects that do the real damage.
As Robert Venturi said... architecture can be avoided!