L’Abattoir d’unité!

L'Unite d'habitation, by Le Corbusier, in Marseille. (thisistotaltrash.blogspot.com)

L’Unite d’habitation, by Le Corbusier, in Marseille. (thisistotaltrash.blogspot.com)

Malcolm Millais, author of Exploding the Myths of Modern Architecture (2009), has some interesting comments picking up on the skit by Monty Python posted Saturday:

Although mainly about Freemasonry, in the skit the John Cleese architect designs an abattoir instead of an office block. You may be amused to learn that, according the H. Allen  Brooks, Le Corbusier did something like this. Here’s what I wrote about it:

For many writers the idea that the Unité has ocean-liner-like characteristics persists. According to Tzonis’ Life in a building is a journey on a liner, it appears to be the metaphor implied by the scheme of the Unité d’Habitation.   Jacques Sbriglio thinks the building resting on its pilotis “compel the onlooker to constantly gaze upwards as if standing before the hull of an ocean liner,”  and Jenkins thinks the Unité looks “as if it were waiting on a slipway in preparedness for its Mediterranean launch.”  Jencks saw it as “a gigantic ocean liner ploughing through the choppy seas of verdure and haphazard urban sprawl”  – not quite Le Corbusier’s vision, one imagines.

Maybe the liner is not the genesis of the Unité; H. Allen Brooks suggests something altogether more chilling – an abattoir. Shortly after his arrival in Paris in 1917, Le Corbusier was involved in the design of several unbuilt abattoirs. The one proposed for Garchizy looks uncannily like the Unité. As further evidence for the abattoir provenance of the Unité, Brooks notes that in early editions of his Oeuvre Complète, Le Corbusier devotes two pages to his abattoir designs; in later additions they are omitted. These were the only pre-1920 pages to be altered or omitted. “As a person who frequently covered his own tracks, was he concealing the source of the Unité d’Habitation design, even though it derived from his own early work?” Brooks asks pointedly.

About David Brussat

This blog was begun in 2009 as a feature of the Providence Journal, where I was on the editorial board and wrote a weekly column of architecture criticism for three decades. Architecture Here and There fights the style wars for classical architecture and against modern architecture, no holds barred. History Press asked me to write and in August 2017 published my first book, "Lost Providence." I am now writing my second book. My freelance writing on architecture and other topics addresses issues of design and culture locally and globally. I am a member of the board of the New England chapter of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art, which bestowed an Arthur Ross Award on me in 2002. I work from Providence, R.I., where I live with my wife Victoria, my son Billy and our cat Gato. If you would like to employ my writing and editing to improve your work, please email me at my consultancy, dbrussat@gmail.com, or call 401.351.0457. Testimonial: "Your work is so wonderful - you now enter my mind and write what I would have written." - Nikos Salingaros, mathematician at the University of Texas, architectural theorist and author of many books.
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1 Response to L’Abattoir d’unité!

  1. webbzilla says:

    Thanks for nice post. I appreciate your writing.


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