As I Said

Longtime Readers will know of my loathing for modernist architecture — the squared-off, ugly and unfriendly style which resembles nothing as much as large cubes of concrete stacked on top of each other.  Specifically, my ire has been directed towards the brutalist works of Swiss designer Le Corbusier who, if there is any justice in the world, is spending eternity revolving slowly on a spit in a room where the temperature has been set to “Broil”.

But lest anyone think I’m just being petulant about this asshole, allow me to point you to an older article by Theodore Dalrymple, who lays out Le Corbusier’s works and his philosophy about society.  Here’s an excerpt:

I spoke of the horrors of Le Corbusier’s favorite material, reinforced concrete, which does not age gracefully but instead crumbles, stains, and decays. A single one of his buildings, or one inspired by him, could ruin the harmony of an entire townscape, I insisted. A Corbusian building is incompatible with anything except itself.


Le Corbusier wanted architecture to be the same the world over because he believed that there was a “correct” way to build and that only he knew what it was.

A terminal inhumanity—what one might almost call “ahumanity”—characterizes Le Corbusier’s thought and writing, notwithstanding his declarations of fraternity with mankind. This manifests itself in several ways, including in his thousands of architectural photos and drawings, in which it is rare indeed that a human figure ever appears, and then always as a kind of distant ant, unfortunately spoiling an otherwise immaculate, Platonic townscape. Thanks to his high-rise buildings, Le Corbusier says, 95 percent of the city surface shall become parkland—and he then shows a picture of a wooded park without a single human figure present. Presumably, the humans will be where they should be, out of sight and out of mind (the architect’s mind, anyway), in their machines for living in (as he so charmingly termed houses), sitting on machines for sitting on (as he defined chairs).
This ahumanity explains Le Corbusier’s often-expressed hatred of streets and love of roads. Roads were impressive thoroughfares for rushing along at the highest possible speed (he had an obsession with fast cars and airplanes), which therefore had a defined purpose and gave rise to no disorderly human interactions. The street, by contrast, was unpredictable, incalculable, and deeply social. Le Corbusier wanted to be to the city what pasteurization is to cheese.

The only possible reaction to this monstrous philosophy should be horror.  That is hasn’t been, and instead has fostered a long line of copycat architects and town planners, is the reason Le Corbusier should be roasting.

Earlier on, Dalrymple compares Le Corbusier to Lenin in his malevolence towards humanity in general;  I would say that while Lenin killed more actual people, Le Corbusier has  destroyed the souls of more cities and the spirits of the people who live and work in them.

It says much about UNESCO that seventeen of his buildings have been designated World Heritage Sites by that foul organization.  Here’s one, by way of illustration:

Pass me the dynamite, Sheldon.

And speaking of dynamite, I should save a little for the Huffington Post  if for no other reason than because of their breathless lionization of this monster.  Not that anyone should ever read anything in HuffPo, but should you want to see more architectural monstrosities, said article contains lots of examples of his work, all of which should make you recoil in horror.  I couldn’t bear to publish more than one;  they’re not so discriminating, the poxy little Marxists.  Huffpo marvels at Le Corbusier’s influence on the modern world;  so do I, but I regard it more in the same perspective as that of the Black Plague on the medieval period.


  1. Reminds me of some of the hideous apartment buildings I saw in Hungary that were built during the Soviet era.

    Not only were they brutally ugly, by the time I saw them in the late 90’s they were already deteriorating and, if anything looked worse than when they were built (if that’s possible.)

    By contrast, the gorgeous little Catholic churches in every little town remained timeless beauties with their Eastern Orthodox inspired “onion domes.”

    Off topic but Hungary really is a beautiful country. Like a “laid-back” version of Germany.

    1. Some of my in-laws are of Hungarian descent and/or birth. My wife and I took our oldest son and her mother there a few years ago. Lovely, fabulous place. Easygoing, lovely, cheap food and booze, a nice attitude.

      I have a picture of me standing next to the Budapest statue President Reagan, of whom the Hungarians were, and are, very fond, and for good reasons. Hanging around that statue, taking photos and watching many, many people come stand with Reagan to have their photos taken was a high point.

    2. Oh, yes. The 2016 World Muzzle-Loading Championships were in Hungary. Lovely country, wonderful people. And remarkably cheap…I highly recommend Eastern Europe for a tourist destination.

      BTW, the famed beauty of the women of that land is an understatement.

  2. Ugh, I’d say that monstrosity looks like a prison, but housing prisoners in such would be considered cruel and unusual punishment. I don’t have the stomach to click over to Huffpo to see more examples.

    “in their machines for living in (as he so charmingly termed houses)”

    This term tells you everything you need to know about his design criteria. Machines, first and foremost, must function, and the better and more efficiently they function the better they are. Despite my love for old steam locomotives, modern diesels are BETTER in every measurable way (reliability, maintenance requirements, efficiency, power). Because the purpose of a locomotive is to pull a train, and modern locos do so better.

    Where he falls short is, as far as I can tell, he views a house and a warehouse for people. Well, warehouses are also better if they’re more efficient (they can store more stuff and that stuff can be found and retrieved when needed), so big square warehouse is a good idea. The stuff you’re storing in it doesn’t care, and the people working there are being paid to do so, so as long as the basics are taken care of (lighting, ventilation, sanitation) it’s OK. Homes are different (long list of obvious reasons left off because I’ve already taken too much of Kim’s comment space, anyone reading this wouldn’t need to be told, and anyone who needs to learn it wouldn’t learn it here anyway).

  3. As an architect, we had Le Corbusier thrown at us in school as as a god, worthy of all adoration and love. His name – “Corbu” – was uttered in hushed and reverent tones.

    Then, I got to go into one of his buildings.

    It was the summer of 1983. I had just been to East Germany, and as God as my witness (the real God, not that Marx fellow) the design had all of the warmth, scale, and humanity of any given stretch of the Berlin Wall.

    The man was all eyeglasses and no vision.

    Men are not machines. Nor are we interchangeable parts in some larger machine. We do not need a “machine for living,” graced to us by an aristocratic elite whose only interractiion with the “common man” was yelling at a taxi driver.

    EDIT: I highly recommend Robert Venturi’s ‘Learning From Las Vegas’ or Tom Wolfe’s ‘From the Bauhaus to Our House’ if you wish an antidote.

  4. Brutalist design should only be tolerated if you are in a desperate hurry to construct housing. That’s it.

    God, I’ve seen hotels that looked nicer than that.

  5. Aside from “brutalist design” well defining most concrete structures, no real axe to grind here. Article’s publication simply coincided with the post on “concrete”. Interesting that for the comments on concrete being subject to deterioration, concrete fortifications built in WWII have weathered rather well.

    17 December 2018
    Climate change: The massive CO2 emitter you may not know about
    By Lucy Rodgers BBC News

    Concrete is the most widely used man-made material in existence. It is second only to water as the most-consumed resource on the planet.

    But, while cement – the key ingredient in concrete – has shaped much of our built environment, it also has a massive carbon footprint.

    Cement is the source of about 8% of the world’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, according to think tank Chatham House.

    If the cement industry were a country, it would be the third largest emitter in the world – behind China and the US. It contributes more CO2 than aviation fuel (2.5%) and is not far behind the global agriculture business (12%).

    So, how did our love of concrete end up endangering the planet? And what can we do about it?
    As the key building material of most tower blocks, car parks, bridges and dams, concrete has, for the haters, enabled the construction of some of the world’s worst architectural eyesores.

    In the UK, it helped the massive wave of post-World War Two development – much of it still dividing opinion – with several of the country’s major cities, such as Birmingham, Coventry, Hull and Portsmouth, largely defined by the concrete structures from that building push.

    1. “And what can we do about it?”

      Is that dingbat ready to go back to living in mud huts? If not, she can STFU.

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