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Le Corbusier's "Glorious City"
The French architect Le Corbusier is probably most
famous as a leader of modern, or functionalist, architecture. His passion, however,
was planning. In the 1920s he exhibited his plan for a city to house three million
people and published his first book, Urbanisme (The City of Tomorrow). His second
book, La Ville Radieuse (The Radiant City) appeared in 1933. Indeed, he was
constantly exhibiting or writing about plans for new cities and redesigns for
old cities. He presented these ideas to the International Congresses of Modern
Architecture (C.I.A.M.). In this way, he succeeded in implanting, in the minds
of architects and city planning authorities, an image of what he thought cities
ought to look like, an image which, for better or worst, underlies much contemporary
design. A biographer, Norma Evenson, commenting on the plan of Brasilia, which
was influenced by his ideas even though it was not designed by him, states:
The most thorough going adaptation of Le Corbusier's urban design conceptions may be seen in the capital of Brazil, begun in 1956. This new city, Brasilia, comprises a cross-axial plain in which a sweeping motor freeway punctuates its intersection with a classically ordered government axis by means of a multilevel transport center. Bordering the freeway are residential superblocks containing standardized apartment blocks set amid open space, while the business center near the hub is designed for unified high-rise building.
The theme of Le Corbusier's plans was to bring "soleil, espace, verdure" (sun, space, and green) to the city, for example, to make the city into a huge "radiant" version of Howard's Garden Cities. His solution is to open up the center of the city, erect a few towering skyscrapers, expand the parks and open spaces between them, and construct high-speed roadways and tramways on two levels radiating from the center. To achieve open space for those who live in apartments, build tall, thin apartment houses. Equip these with elevators. Set buildings on pillars that exposes the ground level.
For convenience, place the superblock apartment complexes in a concentric band around the central urban core. Finally, Le Corbusier planned to construct, on the outskirts of some cities, low apartments, and factories, in a "linear city" pattern.
In his book, "Can Our Cities Survive", Jose Luis Sert reflects the viewpoint of the C.I.A.M., which, as noted, has had great influence on the thinking of many architects and city planning authorities. Some of their premises for good planning, as given by Sert, are listed below.
1. On the need for green open space. "Progressive
extension of the urban areas has destroyed the green open spaces that once surrounded
the dwelling districts of the city-denying the benefits o living near the open
2. On creating open space. "Widely spaced apartment blocks with elevators should be used to free necessary land surface for recreation, community services, parking, and providing dwellings with sun, air, and a view."
3. On Transportation Needs. "The absence of planned location of working places with respect to dwelling places has created excessive commuting distances. Traffic facilities are overtaxed during rush hours. Excessive space of a city is devoted to parking lots. Traffic is hazardous."
4. On Transportation Improvement. "Develop a high-speed multi-level highways, space road intersections farther apart, widen streets."
5. On Zoning. "Without zoning, the control of urban functions becomes impossible. There should be a master plan for industrial zoning. Plans should be developed to determine the needs of different districts according to their organic laws."
6. On Town Planning. "The point of departure for all town planning should be the cell represented by a single dwelling, conceived together with similar cells so as to form a neighbourhood unit of efficacious size. With this as a starting point, dwelling, work, and recreation should be distributed throughout the urban area in their most favorable relationship."
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