Monday, September 13, 2010

Corbu times 3

By Damian Harris-Hernandez

Love him or hate him, you can’t say that Le Corbusier didn’t have a profound impact on the urban landscape. This was the guy, after all, who gave us the projects, or, as he preferred to call them, “machines for living.”

Now through Oct. 15, Pratt Institute takes a close, analytical look at the eccentric Swiss-French Modernist with “Le Corbusier — Miracle Boxes,” a three-part multidisciplinary exhibition that explores the enormous body of work from the architect, who was born Charles-Édouard Jeanneret-Gris, but who wisely adopted a pseudonym at the beginning of his career in the 1920s.

A pioneer in high modern design, Le Corbusier’s postwar, reinforced concrete buildings are scattered all across the globe, including his most famous — Villa Savoye in Poissy, France, his seminal work in the International Style (think ground level columns, horizontal windows, flat roof, and all-white concrete); as well as the Palace for the League of Nations in Geneva; its counterpart, the United Nations building in Manhattan; and Eglise Saint Pierre in France, his last major work, completed posthumously.

Pratt’s exhibition will follow the complete genealogy of ideas and design of Le Corbusier’s public buildings, said Ivan Shumkov, who’s curating the show and will be speaking at the exhibition’s opening event on Sept. 13. “It shows the public things they didn’t imagine about his projects and architecture in general.”

Not only was Corbu an architect, he also painted, sculpted and wrote. The first part of the exhibit displays his original books and manuscripts. The second part meticulously examines over 50 of Le Corbusier’s pavilions, monuments, and other public buildings.

The exhibit culminates with the “Miracle Box,” a full-scale reproduction of Le Corbusier’s smallest architectural endeavor — his work space — now on view outside the Pratt Library. Corbu filled his own seven-and-a-half-foot cube, or “working cell,” with inspirational sculptures and paintings, representative of his idea that architecture is both a place and piece of creation that can be filled with everything you dream of. It worked.

“The comparison between all the projects provides a new understanding of the work of Le Corbusier, one of the greatest masters of architecture and design — ever,” said Shumkov.

“Le Corbusier — Miracle Boxes,” with a focus on Le Corbusier’s architectural projects, at Pratt’s Higgins Hall Auditorium [61 St. James Pl. between Lafayette Avenue and Clifton Place in Clinton Hill, (718) 636-3554], now through Oct. 15, with an opening reception on Sept. 13 at 6 pm.


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