In the shadow of the enlightenment : Le Corbusier, Le Faisceau and Georges Valois

Brott, Simone (2013) In the shadow of the enlightenment : Le Corbusier, Le Faisceau and Georges Valois. In Brown, Alexandra & Leach, Andrew (Eds.) Proceedings of the Society of Architectural Historians, Australia and New Zealand: 30, Open, Society of Architectural Historians, Australia and New Zealand (SAHANZ), Griffith University, Gold Coast, QLD, pp. 777-789.

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Abstract

On 9 January 1927 Le Corbusier materialised on the front cover of the Faisceau journal edited by Georges Valois Le Nouveau Siècle which printed the single-point perspective of Le Corbusier’s Plan Voisin and an extract from the architect’s discourse in Urbanisme. In May Le Corbusier presented slides of his urban designs at a fascist rally. These facts have been known ever since the late 1980s when studies emerged in art history that situated Le Corbusier’s philosophy in relation to the birth of twentieth-century fascism in France—an elision in the dominant reading of Le Corbusier’s philosophy, as a project of social utopianism, whose received genealogy is Saint-Simon and Charles Fourier. Le Corbusier participated with the first group in France to call itself fascist, Valois’s militant Faisceau des Combattants et Producteurs, the “Blue Shirts,” inspired by the Italian “Fasci” of Mussolini. Thanks to Mark Antliff, we know the Faisceau did not misappropriate Le Corbusier’s plans, in some remote quasi-symbolic sense, rather Valois’s organisation was premised on the redesign of Paris based on Le Corbusier’s schematic designs. Le Corbusier’s Urbanisme was considered the “prodigious” model for the fascist state Valois called La Cité Française – after his mentor the anarcho-syndicalist Georges Sorel. Valois stated that Le Corbusier’s architectural concepts were “an expression of our profoundest thoughts,” the Faisceau, who “saw their own thought materialized” on the pages of Le Corbusier’s plans. The question I pose is, In what sense is Le Corbusier’s plan a complete representation of La Cité? For Valois, the fascist city “represents the collective will of La Cité” invoking Enlightenment philosophy, operative in Sorel, namely Rousseau, for whom the notion of “collective will” is linked to the idea of political representation: to ‘stand in’ for someone or a group of subjects i.e. the majority vote. The figures in Voisin are not empty abstractions but the result of “the will” of the “combatant-producers” who build the town. Yet, the paradox in anarcho-syndicalist anti-enlightenment thought – and one that became a problem for Le Corbusier – is precisely that of authority and representation. In Le Corbusier’s plan, the “morality of the producers” and “the master” (the transcendent authority that hovers above La Cité) is lattened into a single picture plane, thereby abolishing representation. I argue that La Cité pushed to the limits of formal abstraction by Le Corbusier thereby reverts to the Enlightenment myth it first opposed, what Theodor Adorno would call the dialectic of enlightenment.

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ID Code: 63644
Item Type: Conference Paper
Refereed: Yes
Additional URLs:
Keywords: Enlightenment, Le Corbusier, Le Faisceau, Georges Valois, Urban Design
ISBN: 9780987605504
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > BUILT ENVIRONMENT AND DESIGN (120000) > ARCHITECTURE (120100) > Architectural History and Theory (120103)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > BUILT ENVIRONMENT AND DESIGN (120000) > URBAN AND REGIONAL PLANNING (120500) > Urban Design (120508)
Divisions: Current > Schools > School of Design
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Creative Industries Faculty
Copyright Owner: Copyright of this volume and the published individual papers
(which are also available for individual download) belongs to SAHANZ. Copyright of the content of individual contributions remains the property of the named author or authors.
Deposited On: 23 Oct 2013 23:23
Last Modified: 12 Feb 2014 03:54

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