Posted by: Adam Roake | March 24, 2009

CORB at the BARBICAN

Le Corbusier at the Barbican is thought provoking. It provides a fine overview of the great man’s work the contrast between his “machine for living in” pre-war work and the more rounded post-war work is clear for all.

Holding the show in the Barbican is of course particularly telling. I won’t say we got lost getting there (I’m a man and therefore incapable of being lost) but we were temporarily unsure of the precise direction of true north. The high level walkways are alien and disorientating – it’s just really hard to know which way you’re supposed to go. And the disastrous result of leaving only vehicles on the streets – a particularly important issue for Corb – is that they are terrifying places to be. Once you’re inside the development, in the gardens surrounded by the buildings, it all seems almost worthwhile except there’s too little activity for comfort and you haven’t a clue where you are or how to get to where you want to be. Maybe modern man just cannot cope with the modernist world Corb and co. prescribed in the twenties and thirties – maybe we haven’t worked hard enough to embed within our psyche the necessary new cues and clues to our environment. Or maybe he made a terrible mistake in deciding that public spaces, like streets, should be reserved for machines to drive in.

Still the architectural brilliance that shines through from the buildings is breath-taking.

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