Jean-Louis Cohen, “The Art of Zigzag: Le Corbusiers Politics”

The concomitant publication in 2015 of three books about Le Corbusier, all of them critical of his ideological failings, triggered heated polemics focusing on his engagement with the leading political forces of the first half of the twentieth century. Yet the view held by these authors, for whom Le Corbusier was a man viscerally committed to far-right groups, does not stand up to a more comprehensive analysis of his political passions. Le Corbusier was also engaged in a cyclical flirtation with the Left and other forces. Perhaps the time has come to consider him less as an agent of political power than a manipulator who tried to exploit political powers in order to achieve his own architectural and urban goals.

Jean-Louis Cohen is Sheldon H. Solow Professor in the History of Architecture at New York University, specializing in nineteenth- and twentieth-century architecture and urbanism in Germany, France, Italy, Russia and North America, as well as contemporary issues in architecture, town planning, and landscape design. He is also a Chevalier des Arts & Lettres in France and a member of the Accademia di San Luca in Rome and the Russian Academy of Architecture. He is author of several books and was curator of the 2013 exhibition Le Corbusier: An Atlas of Modern Landscapes at the Museum of Modern Art, in New York.

Image: Le Corbusier, project for a monument to Paul Vaillant-Couturier, 1938, partial perspective view. © Fondation Le Corbusier, Paris.

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