Le Corbusier and the Automobile
368 pp., 9 x 9 in, 180 color illus., 205 b&w illus., approx
- Published: February 11, 2011
A colorful account of Le Corbusier's love affair with the automobile, his vision of the ideal vehicle, and his tireless promotion of a design that industry never embraced.
Le Corbusier, who famously called a house “a machine for living,” was fascinated—even obsessed—by another kind of machine, the automobile. His writings were strewn with references to autos: “If houses were built industrially, mass-produced like chassis, an aesthetic would be formed with surprising precision,” he wrote in Toward an Architecture (1923). In his “white phase” of the twenties and thirties, he insisted that his buildings photographed with a modern automobile in the foreground. Le Corbusier moved beyond the theoretical in 1936, entering (with his cousin Pierre Jeanneret) an automobile design competition, submitting plans for “a minimalist vehicle for maximum functionality,” the Voiture Minimum. Despite Le Corbusier's energetic promotion of his design to several important automakers, the Voiture Minimum was never mass-produced. This book is the first to tell the full and true story of Le Corbusier's adventure in automobile design. Architect Antonio Amado describes the project in detail, linking it to Le Corbusier's architectural work, to Modernist utopian urban visions, and to the automobile design projects of other architects including Walter Gropius and Frank Lloyd Wright. He provides abundant images, including many pages of Le Corbusier's sketches and plans for the Voiture Minimum, and reprints Le Corbusier's letters seeking a manufacturer. Le Corbusier's design is often said to have been the inspiration for Volkswagen's enduringly popular Beetle; the architect himself implied as much, claiming that his design for the 1936 competition originated in 1928, before the Beetle. Amado Lorenzo, after extensive examination of archival and source materials, disproves this; the influence may have gone the other way. Although many critics considered the Voiture Minimum a footnote in Le Corbusier's career, Le Corbusier did not. This book, lavishly illustrated and exhaustively documented, restores Le Corbusier's automobile to the main text.
This beautiful book, wonderfully researched and written, is clearly a labor of love for architect Amado…there is much in general to be learned and an enjoyable 'ride' to be had.
[T]his is one of those rare coffee-table volumes with an actual thesis, and it nicely combines the history of the automobile with that of architecture in ways that most readers, or perhaps 'viewers', will long remember.
Technology and Culture
An engaging read...the book is almost an exploration of ideas on cars and mobility at this junction in history. Amado is a fluid writer, creating a charming narrative, chapter after chapter building up to the climax that is the story of the car itself.
Banks Design Talks
Antonio Amado's central project with this readable and engrossing book is to restore the car to what he considers its rightful place in Le Corbusier's philosophy: at the centre.