This joke’s on you, Corbu!

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Of course the Corbusier who designed this church was not “Le” Corbusier. Too bad for the rest of us! Would that the pictured church were Corbu’s chapel at Ronchamp, and would that it were now as forgotten as the church above. No criticism meant of Indianapolis’s Tabernacle Presbyterian Church, of course, only that its beauty would be locally recognized, and might not strike anyone as a good example of how they used to build churches. Not to mention how to draw them – architectural draftsmanship now aims more to conceal than to reveal a designer’s intentions.

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Tabernacle Pres. today. (TPC Facebook)

The drawing is from the January 1932 issue of Pencil Points, which became Progressive Architecture in 1940. In the pages of PP the battle of styles between classicism and modernism played out toward its dismal outcome, with the defenders of tradition making their objections at an increasingly higher pitch – until … silence.

Most of the issues of Pencil Points, which was founded in 1920 as a magazine for and about architectural draftsmen and their work, can be found at the USModernist.org. This link is to the January issue but you can click on other issues by visiting where all of the surviving issues have their separate links. The editors of USModernist.org are always on the lookout for people who find old issues up in their attics.

Running through its PDF pages, I was on the lookout for any review of the exhibition of mostly European modern architects being exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art under curation of Henry-Russell Hitchcock and Philip Johnson. I don’t know quite how, in scrolling through the January 1932 pages, my eye was caught by the name beneath the drawing of the Tabernacle Presbyterian, designed by J.W.C. Corbusier, as excellently sketched by architectural draftsman F.H. Stahl. Or why, really, since the MoMA exhibit did not open until the next month.

Since it is so easy to copy things from Pencil Points into my blog, I don’t know how I’ll manage this trove, either. In my pro-tradition, anti-modernist discourse, if Corbusier did not exist he might need to be invented. Pencil Points will certainly be useful.

About David Brussat

For a living, I edit the writing of some of the nation's leading architects, urbanists and design theorists. 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. My freelance writing and editing on that topic and others addresses issues of design and culture locally and globally. I am a fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts, and 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 invest your prose with even more style and clarity, 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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One Response to This joke’s on you, Corbu!

  1. Wentworth Barclay says:

    The drawing looks like a Cram & Goodhue design.
    Alas, the photo does not – guess it looks like a ‘Corbusier’..

    Like

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