Video of the Week IX: Le Corbusier’s Mediterranean cabanon comes to London

The blurb says: 

Le Corbusier’s summer cabin – a tiny bolthole built in the south of France for his wife – has been reconstructed at the Royal Institute of British Architects in London. Jonathan Glancey steps inside to discover what it tells us about the architect’s other monumental buildings

It’s kind of mind-blowing that it is in this space that Corb designed some of those vast concrete megaliths that architectural historians do love so much. That aside, I just love the craft here, and the novel solutions to the problems of everyday living – it puts me in mind to our recent visits to the Black and Einhorn Houses in that respect… But, the minimum dwelling? A model for affordable living? I suspect that it really does need the views that it had originally in order to make this livable rather than soul-destroying, and the lack of kitchen (and consequent reliance on the next door restaurant) isn’t really going to work for the usual low-income earner… and where the heck would you put the widescreen tv, let alone get far enough away to view it all…

Fwiw, Corb spent his last night here (in the cabin in its original location, not at RIBA in london), before drowning on 27 August 1965.



17 responses to “Video of the Week IX: Le Corbusier’s Mediterranean cabanon comes to London”

  1. Interesting – a very different version of the Cabanon to Beatriz Colomina’s one. She describes it in relation to Eileen Gray and Jean Badovici’s E1027, and sees it as “being little more than an observation platform, a sort of watchdog house.” Strange the video mentioned the restaurant nearby but not Gray and Badovici’s house. One of Colomina’s articles on E1027 and Corb’s relationship with it is at:

  2. Interesting… that article also suggests that Corb spent his last night in E1027 rather than the Cabanon…

  3. Curiouser and curiouser. I find it rather odd that he built this cabin on the spare bit of land next to where his friend’s restaurant is/was. Wouldn’t that be the rather odd to have a man building a house there – not out the back near the rubbish bins (where some would argue that corb truly belongs) but up front on the terrace where the views are and where you would want your OTHER restaurant patrons to sit?

    The arrogance of the man knows no bounds. He was a terrible architect, his buildings are awful, and all leak, the plans for Chandigar are a nightmare and the Indians avoid the city like the plague – in fact, it could be argued that with the size of some of the slums there, they actually prefer the plague to his work.

    Ronchamp is a failed building, never really worked for the nuns and monks, the only people that go there are all you pesky architecture students, it’s hopeless as a retreat, was way over budget, and like the catholic church everywhere, they’d like to sell it or pull it down.

    I don’t care where he died, just very glad he’s dead.

  4. I’m shocked and a bit horrified to find that there is anti-Corbusier feelings out there. Isn’t this the man that changed the face of architecture, some would say the greatest architect of all time? In fact, changed the face of the world’s cities all over the globe?

  5. I’d heard he was an ok architect with good publishing connections. It seems a bit much to weigh anyone down with the greatest architect of the C20th acolade.

    Guy – speaking of cities all over the world – how did he impact Wellington’s built environment?

  6. Corbusian city planning methods (tower blocks surrounded by idealistic green fields, sometimes raised on pilotis) and the separation of structure from facade…. this idealistic vision allows the modern city to florish and grow. Wellington was a small, dense city of brick faced monoliths around 100 years ago. In its place we now have tall tower blocks, with a myriad of views (its a pity that the promised green spaces of Corb’s ideals didn’t quite make it to the finished product).

  7. Massey House

  8. …oh, and didn’t he take a dump on the waterfront recently?

    Realistically, motorways aside, Wellington couldn’t really be considered to have much in common with the modernist utopias that Corb insisted on blathering on about. It has always seemed much more medieval to me, in its relation to geography/topography… Had the Arch Centre had its way in the early years, this would certainly not be the case however…

  9. “…oh, and didn’t he take a dump on the waterfront recently?”

    ouch. that’s still a sore point….

  10. sorry – that was meant to be tongue-in-cheek…

  11. jayseatee Avatar

    Since this is a different website, I’m going to agree with M-D. I don’t think there is really anything in wellington that quite illustrates the effect corb’s ideas had on some cities. I remember my 3rd year in architecture school I went to chicago to visit a friend. I can still remember my utter amazement driving mile after mile down south state street (near mies’ IIT) and seeing tower after tower of high rise public housing surrounded with pathetic plazas that were absolutely horrifying. The towers had scorched areas, a mish mash of plywood covering where windows should have been. What affected me most was just how much of it there was and how disproportionate it was to the scale of the surrounding city. They’ve torn most of it down now and tried new urbanist stuff, which is pretty dreadful in it’s own right although the scale is better. You can still see the scars to the city though on google maps.

    This is a pretty good image:
    I can’t identify each of the projects, but Robert Taylor homes is in the area – some pretty interesting information on that.

    The more infamous Cabrini Green isn’t visible in the image nor rockwell gardens

    all are absent pilotis however. I’m 100% positive that’s why they failed.

  12. its not just Corb who has had a strong influence on cities of course – and I’m glad you bought up Chicago, as that is one of the cities in the world I find the most interesting. I visited IIT (some years, even decades) after Mies had moved on, and was amazed to find that the students were still producing (or should i say, reproducing) Miesian buildings, complete with black bronze columns and completely glazed walls. Very, Very, Odd.

  13. jayseatee Avatar

    You are quite right that it was not just Corb, and while the chicago example is interesting to illustrate how damaging those ideas were to the cities, I would not make the argument, as i have heard some before, that the architecture was responsible for making the places dangerous and amplified the poverty. The slums that those towers replaced were equally as dangerous and impoverished, and the same diagram can be seen in plenty of ritzy high rise towers which do not have the same problems. When I was in school it was very popular to hold those buildings up as creating the social problems that they contained, which in reality I don’t believe is true. They did scar the city and destroyed the scale and the fabric, but did not in themselves lead to gang activity any more than the brick blocks that preceded them did.

  14. Wellington tower blocks (dress and tower/podium form aside) are more akin to the skyscrapers of old NY and Chicago in their arrangement within the urban fabric (respecting the street plan) than they are to modernist concepts of the city – they have to be in order to squeeze enough of them into the CBD/Golden Mile in the absence of large areas of flat land. There are a few patches of Wellington that can qualify as Corbusian/modernist-style planning (parts of the parliamentary precinct, some of the state and council flats).

    So, in terms of changing Wellington city, it is really at the architectural detail level that this becomes significant, with the form and structure of the built environment anything but Modernist – thankfully. I happen to think that we have the best of both worlds as a result…

  15. I must say I AM SHOCKED TO READ what arthur says about Ronchamp…bigoted, MISINFORMED, WAY out of line I SAY….

  16. Yes, Russell: we don’t have any control over who posts here – everyone seems to have their own opinion. Some more controversial than others.
    Any truth then ion Arthur’s comments that: “Ronchamp is a failed building, never really worked for the nuns and monks, the only people that go there are all you pesky architecture students,” ?

  17. Four recent shots of E.1027 starting here:

    New Alpes-Maritimes photo-set for context here:
    Click image to go to photo-page. Scroll down individual photo-page for text, geotag mapping, and View Larger.

    P 🙂

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