Sunday, April 12, 2015

Le Corbusier, A Controversial Architect

There was an exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City a couple years ago about a controversial architect and urban planner: Le Corbusier.

The central problem he was concerned about was how cities could adapt to rising population trends.

His solution was to build giant towers in parks.  Huge numbers of people would live in these towers surrounded by grass and trees.

Indeed, many cities in America tried to do this.  They built 'housing projects' for poor people in cities like New York and Chicago.  These housing projects were, however, a disaster.  They became places of extreme poverty and violence and most cities have been tearing these housing projects down over the years.

Please read the following article.  Interesting vocabulary from the article will be listed and defined.  Then, after the definitions, you will find multiple-choice questions and answers.

The article:

Vocabulary to help you understand the article: 

to pay tribute to - to show appreciation for; to present an exhibit of work to show how important or amazing this architect was.

terrifying beauty - this is an example of an 'oxymoron,' when you have two words that seem to contradict each other.  We don't often think of beauty as being terrifying, but the plans and buildings of Le Corbusier are both beautiful and scary.  They are scary because they often seem so impersonal.

a thorough revisiting - a complete re-looking at; when you take a close look at someone's work after many years, you revisit the work.

his reputation was rehabilitated - people began to think badly of him (Moses), but they began to think more positively about him after the exhibit in New York.  A reputation is how people generally think of you. To rehabilitate something is to fix it up and make it better.

a sweeping multimedia exhibit - sweeping means it covers many topics over a long span of time; multimedia means many media - photos, recordings, videos, models, sculpture etc.

staging a show - putting on a show

an inspiration - an influence that motivates someone

a visionary - someone who can see what the future of a field will be like, or what the future in general might be like.  Le Corbusier could see that cities were becoming more crowded and that a new method would be necessary to house everyone.

disparaged - criticized, verbally attacked

urban planning - trying to meet the needs of people in a city and then designing new projects in the city to meet those needs

ill-fated - things did not work out well if they were ill-fated. It's as if the project was meant to fail.

devastating slum-clearance - slum clearance means just removing the houses of poor people.  A slum is a very poor neighborhood.  This was devastating because after the houses and areas were destroyed, nothing better was provided.  If you feel devastated you feel shocked and depressed.

urban renewal - fixing up or making cities better or like 'new'

freeways - highways; wide roads where cars and trucks can travel at higher speeds than normal

dismantled - taken apart

an engaging packaging - an interesting way the show was put together

innovative - new, unique

a puzzle - in this case, social problems

immersed in the bohemian vanguard - he lived among very creative and artistic people who were creating new trends. If you are in the vanguard, you are among the leaders who can create something new in some field.

a bankruptcy - this means a lack of something in this case

to advocate - to speak out in favor of something or recommend something.

wide swaths - a swath is an area.  A wide swath would be a large area of land.

a cluttered, shabby city - cluttered means crowded.  If something is shabby it is not well-made and can fall apart easily.

an interval - a space.

misguided - not properly thought-out; badly considered or judged

windswept plazas - large empty plazas

the pedestrian - someone who walks around in a city

the mantra - the saying.  So the most common saying or phrase or term these days among urban planners is: all architecture should include mixed-use stuff!  Every building should have a bunch of things and services in it.

dapper - nicely dressed; dressed really fancy

predating - coming before; so this author is saying Le Corbusier had some good ideas before most people realized they were good ideas.

to accommodate - in this case, to help people obtain good housing

micro-housing - small rooms for single, unmarried people

to clamor for - to demand, to ask for, to desperately want

crafted - built

a skeptic - someone who doesn't believe something easily

prolific - a prolific writer writes a lot. A prolific architect creates many buildings.

elite - among the best.

revered - highly respected.

his star has dimmed - he is not as famous as before.

a retrofit and restoration - they can't change the whole building so they make changes inside to update various important functions that have to happen in a building.

lanky - tall and thin.

Multiple-choice questions:

1.  Robert Moses is mentioned in this article because:
a) he was a friend of Le Corbusier b) he introduced the urban planning of Le Corbusier to the USA c) he was inspired by Le Corbusier d) he helped acquire funding for projects Le Corbusier wanted to develop in New York City

2.  The article points out that Le Corbusier, like Moses, is:
a) widely admired throughout the world  b) emulated currently in many American cities  c)  an artist who has had major exhibits at MoMA d) someone who has been harshly criticized.

3)  New Urbanists feel that Le Corbusier's 'towers in the park' were:
a) a terrible idea  b) an interesting experiment  c)  something architects can be inspired by  d) an important step in the evolution of urban architecture

4)  The author considers Le Corbusier to be:
a) someone who took the ideas of others and further developed them b) someone who created new ideas  c)  someone who looked back to the history of architecture for inspiration  d) someone who liked working with a good team to develop buildings.

5)  Le Corbusier changed his name because:
a)  he thought it was too long  b) he was inspired by his creative environment to be different  c)  he felt he would become more famous with a shorter name  d)  his new name represented the town in which he was born

6)  When Le Corbusier looked around Paris, he saw:
a) people were happy but looking for more  b)  people needed services they were not getting  c)  people were desperately poor  d)  a well organized city where people lived satisfactorily

7)  According to the author, although Le Corbusier could be criticized for a few things, it has to be admitted that:
a)  Le Corbusier's motives were genuine  b) Le Corbusier never gave up  c)  Le Corbusier brought a sense of hard-work to his designs  d)  Le Corbusier helped establish architecture as a true science

8)  The author states the goal of the exhibit was:
a) to resurrect Le Corbusier's reputation  b)  to inform and educate New Yorkers about Le Corbusier's achievements  c)  to further criticize an over-rated architect  d)  to encourage people to take a new look at an architect who was becoming less well-known

9)  The author's attitude toward Le Corbusier could be considered:
a) unmitigated admiration  b)  contempt for his impersonal approach to architecture  c) admiration mixed with an objective assessment of the architect's flaws  d) completely objective

10) The author probably wrote the article to:
a) reassess the work of an important architect  b) provide a useful review for readers to learn about and possibly attend an exhibit  c) try to change a misconception that many people have about this architect  d) provide a necessary negative critique of the architect's work

Answers are below:


1.  c
2.  d
3.  a
4.  b
5.  b
6.  b
7.  a
8.  d
9.  c
10. b

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