Noticias de Arquitectura

How the works of Le Corbusier touched his admirers
septiembre 21, 2008, 4:21 am
Filed under: Le Corbusier

Architect, artist, visionary – Le Corbusier won admirers in many fields. Our correspondent talks to collectors and fans
French architect Le Corbusier
Christian Pambrun


Weber met Le Corbusier in 1958, when she was a successful interior designer in Zurich, and their subsequent collaborations led to her building a museum, the last building Le Corbusier designed and the only one in steel and glass, to house her vast collection of Le Corbusier artworks.

In 1957 I went to see a Le Corbusier exhibition at the Kunsthaus in Zurich, and I didn’t know at that time that he was a painter. I knew his architecture, but not painting. I was unbelievably moved. Then a neighbour, a graphic designer who had made the famous seven-volume book of Le Corbusier’s work, told me that he had an original Le Corbusier collage. I closed my interior design store and went to see it right away.

When I saw it, I asked if I could buy it from him. He said never: I paid 200 francs and I will never sell it. Then, about three or four weeks later, he came to my store. It was a lovely sunny day, and we went to the country park in my Fiat Topolino. He was saying, “Oh, it’s so fantastic in the car – without the car you can’t do anything like this,” and I replied, “But you have money, surely you can afford a car?” He said no, he had no money at all. Then I jumped in – but you have the collage at home! I’ll give you my car for it, I offered. He said that I was crazy, that he had only paid 200 francs for the collage. The car was 3,500 francs. I said no question, I would give him anything he wanted for it. So, we went home, I gave him the key to the car and he gave me the collage.

That was the year before I met Le Corbusier at his house in Cap Martin, on the French Riviera. I knew one of his friends, and went to see him there. Le Corbusier showed me around his house, and always in my mind was getting another painting. I was young and full of excitement, and I offered to exchange a Picasso for a painting of his. He looked at me with open eyes and he said, “All right, but how much do you want to pay for it?” I said that I had 10,000 francs in the bank, and he opened his eyes big and replied, “You really want to pay as much for a painting?” I would have paid anything. I would have sold my house for a painting! And that’s how we started.

He only designed about five private houses, he was only engaged in social projects – that’s why I worked with him. He was a real humanist. He was a very correct person, very quiet, but each minute, creative. He said nothing without creating ideas. And he was very polite. He would give a little smile and say, “Mrs Weber, come more often to Paris, it would be my pleasure.” I went every two weeks for seven years.


In 1956, the father of Alexis Lautenberg, the Swiss Ambassador to London, gave him a drawing made by Le Corbusier in 1953. The Ambassador has treasured it since.

I lost my father when I was a little boy and this drawing was the last gift he gave to me. He bought it in the South of France where he used to spend his holidays. He gave it to me when I was about 11, and he died when I was 12, and I have been travelling with it ever since.

My father was a very wise man. He was interested in the development of social expressions in architecture and its important role in the immediate postwar period. He had a strong relationship with France, and was an admirer of Le Corbusier, so it was an obvious choice. He was amused by the drawing – he thought it was a nice thing to give to a little boy. I’m not going to sell it – this drawing is a very nice memory of that time.

When I was Ambassador to the EU in Brussels [1993-2000], I had a fantastic team around me and I gave everyone a copy of the drawing. I think it’s a very nice souvenir.

I didn’t realise straight away how important the drawing was, I was just trying to understand what the message written on it meant. I have considered the message [here translated from French] very important for the rest of my life. The three sentences are loaded with meaning. “To fight the mills” means that you have to stand for something – as does “Overthrowing Troy”; this refers to breaking up established thinking and inherited situations. The third one, “To be ready to carry the load”, is something that every one of us should do, and the last bit, “Without money”, is a very nice message – particularly when you read it today.

Le Corbusier was intellectually and conceptually far ahead of many others. In a way, he’s now rediscovered – he’s a very interesting choice as one of the key exhibitions in the Liverpool capital of culture programme.


The governor of the London School of Economics and chair of its advisory board owns two very special pieces made by Le Corbusier: a 1951 model of one of the walls of the Notre Dame du Haute chapel in Ronchamp, eastern France, and a set of drawings for the Baghdad Olympic Stadium – which was one of the architect’s major projects that was never built.

These works came from one of Le Corbusier’s assistants who had worked in his office in the Rue de Sèvres [in Paris]. I bought them three or four years ago during a trip to America – they were then owned by the family of this assistant. When I saw them, I knew absolutely that I wanted to own these works. I felt that no one had been paying them attention.

What motivated me to buy them is that they’re from a phase of Le Corbusier’s architecture that has really been influential in many ways: they gave an idea of how concrete could be used in a powerful architectural way, and how architecture was liberated from a very rectilinear conception.

I have been to Ronchamp four or five times. It’s a fascinating place for architects or people really interested in architecture. I own a model of the southwest wall and the rest may have been destroyed, though there is no evidence that it was ever part of a larger or complete model of the chapel. It was made for the specific purpose of studying the effect of the window embrasures within the enormous thickness of the south wall – it seems that Le Corbusier was trying to work out the best distribution of the holes and the effect of the light on them.

Regarding the Baghdad Olympic Stadium drawings, “Corb” was discussing with his assistants how to represent plastic moulded forms in two dimensions – as they were making those new revolutionary shapes in architecture, they were forced to find a brand new language of representation. The project ran for an incredibly long time, and there are a lot of documents of all kinds related to it. The one that I’ve got is the most finished.

Both objects interest me in different ways. Not so much because of what they are, but in their capacity for conveying ideas. I’m interested in the process behind them. They’re incidentally beautiful because of the way they articulate ideas that were present during their making. I’m fascinated with the reasons why architects designed buildings the way they did, and especially with Ronchamp. Owning those works is a little bit like touching the hand of God, it’s an incredibly direct connection with Le Corbusier.

Le Corbusier – the Art of Architecture, the Crypt, Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral (www.architecture. com/lecorbusier), Oct 2-Jan 18 2008

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