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The Hazardous Business of Celebrating Le Corbusier

The pioneer of modern architecture inspired hundreds of drab downtowns and suburban corporate office parks. But he had many good ideas that are relevant to citybuilding today
Le Corbusier pioneered 20th-century modernism and the International Style, beginning with the Villa Savoye.
Le Corbusier pioneered 20th-century modernism and the International Style, beginning with the Villa Savoye.Anthony Flint

In talking about the book I recently had the privilege of seeing published, Modern Man: The Life of Le Corbusier, Architect of Tomorrow, my suspicions have been confirmed. Reactions to this extraordinary man fall into three categories: those who adore him, those who detest him, and those who have no idea who he was.

There may be other figures through history where the response is divided up this way, and certainly the love-him-or-hate-him split is common for many architects. But for those in the world of citybuilding and urban planning, the strong opinions are intense. People are dug in like Red Sox and Yankees fans; talking about Le Corbusier is a bit like bringing up politics or religion at the Thanksgiving table. This makes the job of the biographer especially challenging; as I point out in the epilogue of the narrative, it is indeed possible to learn some useful things from Le Corbusier (1887-1965), in this very urban 21st century.