For my essay I have chosen to compare Le Corbusier with an artist called Kurt Hermann Eduard Karl Julius Schwitters. When I originally chose to compare these artists I assumed they would be difficult to relate as I did not know much about either. After my research I found out the artists had a lot more in common than I first anticipated. Both Kurt Schwitter and Le Corbusier were born in the same year and both work with sculpture and paint. Instead of comparing all of Le Corbusier’s work with all of Kurt Schwitters I have chosen to choose a project of Le Corbusier, to compare with a selected amount of Kurt Schwitters work.
The title of my essay is architecture or reinvention, which puts forward the argument that a lot of people referred to my selected piece of Kurt Schwitters work, the Merz Building, as a piece of architecture. Personally I feel the Merz Building by Kurt Schwitters was not a piece of architecture, but more of a reinvention of an original architectural space. This title referrers to Le Corbusier as although it is still architecture, his aim partly is to reinvent crowded areas on his travels around the globe. Also I gathered information from a book titled ‘The Architecture of Reinvention’ and extracted my title from this.
Charles-Eduard Jeanneret Gris, who chose to be known as Le Corbusier was an architect in the early 19 hundreds. He was also an urban planner, sculptor, painter, writer and modern furniture designer. Le Corbusier was born in Switzerland in 1987 in La Chaux de Fonds, Switzerland, and became a French citizen in his 30’s and became famous for being a pioneer of modern architecture. A lot of Le Corbusier’s work during the 1920-1930 periods started from poetic suggestion, being inspired by Cendrars after his 1924 trip to South America.
In later years Le Corbusier steered away from poetic suggestion and he returned to doctrinaire urban principles. A lot of Le Corbusier’s work was produced because he was dedicated to providing a better way of living for residents of crowded areas. Le Corbusier constructed buildings in Europe, India, Russia and North and South America. He is perhaps best known for his innovations in urban planning and his solutions for low income housing.
Le Corbusier believed that the stark, unornamented buildings he designed would contribute to clean, bright, healthy cities. By law, all buildings should be white. ” – Le Corbusier Kurt Schwitters was an artist who was born in Hanover in the same year as Le Corbusier and both artists worked during World War 2. Kurt Schwitter was a painter, who also worked in construction, surrealism, poetry, painting, sculpture, graphic design, and typography and installation art. The project of Kurt Schwitters I am choosing to compare to Le Corbusier is his project in his family home in Hannover. Alongside collage, Kurt Schwitters also dramatically altered a number of spaces throughout his life.
Probably the most famous example of this is the Merzbau, the transformation of around 6 rooms in his family home in Hannover, which took him 14 year to complete. This piece was called the Merzbau (see appendix 1). The Merzbau in Hannover was a fantastically constructed interior; he did not build, but dramatically altered the interior of his family home. The walls and ceiling were covered with a diversity of three dimensional shapes and the room itself was crowded with materials and objects or “spoils and relics”, as Kurt Schwitters himself put it. Kurt Schwitters himself described the Merzbau (Merz Building) as his life’s work.
The Merzbau was constructed a number of times, first in Hannover, then in Norway, and although Kurt Schwitter died before it was completed one in England. The Merzbau in Hannover was destroyed in an Allied air raid and the Norwegian version, fell a victim to a fire. Only the English version remains. The starting point of the Merzbau project was Schwitters’ studio in his house at No. 5 Waldhausenstrasse. However the work continually grew until finally, just before Schwitters’ emigration to Norway, as many as eight rooms had been “merzed”, including the skylight in the roof and the space underneath the ground floor balcony.
The actual centre of the Merzbau was a tree-standing sculpture; Kurt Schwitters himself said that everything that was of any importance to him was contained in the Merzbau. This statement refers not only to Schwitters’ ideas and overall artistic concept but also to concrete, everyday objects: souvenirs of friends and other things of sentimental value were stored in niches and later walled in. Personally, I fell the Merz Building in some way was also kind of Kurt Schwitters “constructed autobiography, a building of personal and historical reminiscences.
Schwitters did not see the Merzbau as a Gesamtkunstwerk (total work of art) purely in a formal sense. In some way the Merz Building addressed the social and ideological aspects of the mediaeval cathedral as an entity which embraced all the arts, It was also from this social architecture of the cathedral that Walter Gropius drew his inspiration for the Bauhaus in Weimar. “Together let us desire, conceive and create the new structure of the future, which will embrace architecture and sculpture and painting in one unity, and which will one day rise toward heaven from the hands of a million workers like the crystal symbol of a new faith. – Walter Gropius From Kurt Schwitters Merz Building you get the overall impression of a Cubist painting of Gothic architecture.
The Merzbau may be regarded as an individualized and secularized cathedral of the 20th century embracing all art forms and all creative possibilities. The basic idea behind the Merz Building was for Kurt Schwitters to created order out of chaos. The Merz Building reflected the hope for a new beginning from the ruins of a society destroyed by war. “Becoming absorbed in art is like going to church. – Kurt Schwitters Kurt Schwitters, after the first Merzbau in Hannover later created a similar environment in the garden of his house in Lysaker known as the Haus am Bakken. This project was not completed and burnt down in 1951 and no photos were recorded. The last Merzbau created by Kurt Schwitters can be found in Elterwater, Cumbria, England remained incomplete on Schwitters dead in 1948. Le Corbusier’s architectural ideas became widely known during his career, but were the subject of controversy and misunderstanding.
It seemed le Corbusier had an ambiguous attitude towards modern technology and European culture. A lot of his work related to the virtues of mechanical iconography, but during his South American project he focused more on the natural environment (see appendix 2) exotic human types (see appendix 3) and events on his epic conquest of the South American continent. Le Corbusier’s work and sketches were specific components of his visit to South America, whereas Schwitters work is more random, but still carries a lot of meaning.
Both Le Corbusier and Schwitter’s sketches had considerable values as devices of communication and even relation. Both artists relate at once to architectural form and thoughts. There sketches and pieces of work do not seem to be traces of something waiting to be finished, but final products within themselves. There images are not pieces that could be changed or modified in any way without losing their meaning. To me I think that there drawings and images are considered as a way of thinking, working towards a final product.
Personally I feel Kurt Schwitters work can be related to architectural form, and some of his pieces slightly resemble architectural landscape. The pieces of work leading up to Kurt Schwitters Merzbau project, although being very different, also strongly resembled this earlier work with collage. In affect of the war Schwitters work seemed to become dark as the war went on, and his worked seemed to correspond to the time, and period he was working in. With the Merz building this is a different story. As his work developed you started to get a sense of space was being created.
Kurt Schwitters was significantly influenced by expressionism and cubism and this is really shown in the Merz building. Le Corbusier’s career in South America started in 1929 and is a project full of failures and misunderstandings. Le Corbusier expressed feelings and impressions through a highly distinct set of drawings, and these sketches were extremely significant components on his visit to South America. Curiously, Le Corbusier’s drawings were rarely of buildings. From Le Corbusier’s visit to South America (reinventing the South American city) only one project was finished. A lot of his ideas were not completed.
None of the Ministry of Healy and Education, The University City of Rio de Janeiro, the plan for the Buenos, the plan for Bogota and the French Embassy for Brasilia was built. The Errazuiz House (see appendix 4) commissioned in Buenos Aires in 1929, although it was never built, it had an important influence on his work in later years. The only building le Corbusier built during his tour of South America was The Currutchet House (see appendix 5) what was finally completed in 1949. One of the most striking images from Le Corbusier’s visit to South America was the aerial views (see appendix 6).
These were a sort of, expression of a new understanding of both territory and the city. These sketches seriously expressed Le Corbusier’s admiration of flight, but hadn’t actually flown until his visit to South America. ‘At 500 to 1,000 meters altitude, and at 180 – 200 kilometres an hour, the view from a plane is not rushed but slow, unbroken, the most precise that one can wish… I exist in life only if I can see’ – Le Corbusier The landscape and cities of South America, and the nature seen from above had a serious impact of Le Corbusier’s thoughts. ‘From the plane I saw sights the one may call cosmic… hose daring outline of rocks that give us an idea of the sublime… I think of architecture as the ‘house of man’ I become Rousseauist’- Le Corbusier
In conclusion, while conducting research I have found that a lot of these artists work represent the same aims and share the same understanding. Kurt Schwitters aim while creating the Merzbau was to create a better way of living within a dark era, creating beauty and art in the mists of destruction. Also Le Corbusier’s aim in reinventing the South America city was to create a better way of living for less developed Countries and areas.
It is hard to understand what affect Le Corbusier’s visit to South America had on him; from all his experience there his later urban projects seemed to be simple urban principles rather than poetic suggestion. ‘Le Corbusier’s visit to South America allowed him to reconcile, at least momentarily, his faith in the spirit of a new age represented by the experience of flight – with the myth of the primitive and the living traditions that he found in South American geography’ – (Perez Oyarzun, P) AA Publications, Le Corbusier in South America