Green space and cosmic order: Le Corbusier’s understanding of nature
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This thesis attempts to define Le Corbusier’s understanding of the natural world. While this theme has frequently been discussed in the secondary literature, it has not yet been comprehensively addressed. Each chapter of the thesis approaches the topic from a different thematic angle, in an attempt to bring together the different aspects of Le Corbusier’s conception of nature. The first deals with his sense of nature as both ordered and Order: a way of thinking which owes more to pre-modern than modern culture. The second, in tackling the connection which Le Corbusier made between nature and the well-being of urban dwellers, considers a more instrumental aspect of his thinking. The third shows that he saw the experience of nature primarily as belonging to the private domain, and investigates the consequences of this for his cities. The fourth links the idea of the architectural promenade with the natural world and shows that nature was figured as both static image and dynamic experience by Le Corbusier. The fifth takes as its starting point his conviction that ‘primitive’ peoples lived in closer contact with nature than those of the industrialised world, but argues that he was not therefore guilty of the reductive, idealising approach to non-western culture usually associated with primitivism. Le Corbusier’s attitude to vernacular architecture, the dwellings of “natural” men, is explored in the sixth chapter, where the connection between the vernacular and the idea of the standard is considered. Throughout the intention is to position Le Corbusier as caught between an ancient sense of nature as cosmic order, full of symbolic potential, and a modern approach which sees nature as nothing more than an expanse of greenery or a view of trees.