Briefly Noted: The Totalitarian Architect


The ideas of Le Corbusier, the Swiss-French designer of uniform, soulless skyscrapers, are recounted in a new biography, Nicholas Fox Weber's Le Corbusier: A Life (Knopf).

Le Corbusier's passion for imposed order extended beyond urban planning. He once proposed razing Paris' Right Bank to implement regimented living zones. Recognizing that free societies were unlikely to grant him the power to implement such visions, he courted totalitarian regimes, making overtures to Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, and Vichy France.

Le Corbusier's talent for design—embodied by the Notre Dame du Haut in Ronchamp, France—was tarnished by his ideas about urban life and by the amoral deals he cut to implement them. His influence lives on in bleak cityscapes across the world, from grim American housing projects such as Chicago's Cabrini Green to Brasilia, Brazil's calamitous attempt at a planned urban paradise.