|Le Corbusier's Cité radieuse, Marseilles, 1947-1952. Balconies a feature.|
Le Corbusier (1887-1965), the French/Swiss pioneer of architectural modernism, built nothing in Rome. Nor, apparently, was he influenced by the city, which he failed to visit on a wide-ranging tour as a young man.
Still, Rome came to mind while reading Rachel Donadio's story in a recent New York Times (July 13, 2015), based on several new books on the architect and an exhibition at the Pompidou Center. Once again, the issue is the extent to which Le Corbusier's architectural values and ideals were modernist and democratic--housing for the masses could easily be understood as fulfilling an underlying democratic mission (meeting the needs of the people)--or essentially totalitarian (Le Corbusier was involved with right-wing parties in France in the interwar years, and he was an admirer of Mussolini).
|Concrete supports for Cité radieuse|
This is not the place to resolve or devote serious attention to the issue of Le Corbusier's politics and ideology. What interested us at RST was the color photo that accompanied the essay. The photo was of Cité radieuse (Radiant City), a complex of 337 apartments constructed in Marseilles between 1947 and 1952 and repeated in other European cities in 1955, 1957, 1963 and 1965. It was constructed of rough-cast concrete (a material identified with the Brutalist movement to come) and partly for that reason is a considered a founding statement of Brutalism. The Marseilles building is widely understood as one of Le Corbusier's most important works.
No, you can't see Le Corbusier in Rome. But you can experience something of his vision in Rome's Flaminio district, where Italian architects Adalberto Libera and Luigi Moretti, among others, were working in a similar vein on, and around, the Olympic Village, built for the 1960 games. The village is a bit over a mile north of Piazza del Popolo--a 10-minute tram ride will get you close--and well worth seeing.
|Olympic Village, Rome|
|Supports for Corso Francia (Luigi Moretti)|
|Elegant rooftop, Cité radieuse|
Both Libera and Moretti worked for, and during, Mussolini's Fascist regime. Libera was the lead architect on the Foro Mussolini (now Foro Italico), located northwest of the Olympic Village, just across the Tevere.
So visit the Olympic Village. It's the closest you'll come to Le Corbusier in Rome.
|Olympic Village topped by round, modernist ventilation system. Colors, too, and balconies.|