Le Cor­bus­ier le­gacy faces threats over ‘fas­cist’ claims


Rev­e­la­tions that one of the world’s most fa­mous mod­ern ar­chi­tects, Le Cor­bus­ier, was a “fas­cist” with links to France’s WWII col­lab­o­ra­tionist Vichy regime have been pub­lished just ahead of a ma­jor Paris ex­hi­bi­tion of his work.

The dis­clo­sures made in two new books about Le Cor­bus­ier con­firmed pre­vi­ous, less-cat­e­gor­i­cal as­ser­tions and threaten to mar his le­gacy in a year in which France com­mem­o­rates the 50th an­niver­sary of his death.

Ad­mir­ers of the ar­chi­tect, who pi­o­neered the con­struc­tion of util­i­tar­ian con­crete build­ings in­clud­ing a hous­ing project in Mar­seille called La Cite Radieuse, have ex­pressed shock.

Paris’s Pom­pi­dou Cen­tre, which is to open a three-month long ex­hi­bi­tion ded­i­cated to Le Cor­bus­ier on April 29, has come in for al­le­ga­tions of white­wash­ing his im­age by omit­ting ref­er­ences to the con­tro­versy.

‘Kept se­cret’

Xavier de Jarcy, a jour­nal­ist who wrote about the find in his book “Le Cor­bus­ier, un fas­cisme fran­cais” ( Le Cor­bus­ier, a French fas­cism), told AFP: “I dis­cov­ered he was sim­ply an out-and-out fas­cist.”

The ar­chi­tect “was ac­tive dur­ing 20 years in groups with a very clear ide­ol­ogy” but that “has been kept hid­den,” con­firmed an­other au­thor, Fran­cois Chaslin, who pub­lished “Un Cor­bus­ier.”

Born in Switzer­land in 1887 as Charles-Edouard Jean­neret-Gris, the ar­chi­tect moved to Paris at 20 and in 1920 adopted his nick­name Le Cor­bus­ier from an an­ces­tor. Ten years later he took French cit­i­zen­ship.

He is known as one of the main pi­o­neers of the mod­ern move­ment in ar­chi­tec­ture, along with the Ger­man-Amer­i­can Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Fin­land’s Al­var Aalto.

His de­signs call­ing for func­tional apart­ment blocks with parks in­formed France’s post­war ur­ban plan­ning pol­icy for three decades. That pol­icy ended in 1973 af­ter it be­came clear that many such zones were de­press­ing and anony­mous, and con­trib­uted to ur­ban alien­ation.


The new books show Le Cor­bus­ier moved in fas­cist cir­cles in Paris in the 1920s.

He de­vel­oped close ties with Pierre Win­ter, a doc­tor who headed France’s Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Fas­cist Party, and worked with him to cre­ate the ur­ban plan­ning jour­nal “Plans.” When that pub­li­ca­tion ended, they started an­other called “Pre­lude.”

Jarcy said that in “Plans” Le Cor­bus­ier wrote in sup­port of Nazi anti-Semitism and in “Pre­lude” co- wrote “hate­ful editorials.”

In Au­gust 1940 dur­ing World War II, the ar­chi­tect wrote to his mother that “money, Jews (partly re­spon­si­ble), Freema­sonry, all will feel just law.” In Oc­to­ber that year, he added: “Hitler can crown his life with a great work: the planned lay-out of Europe.”

Chaslin said re­search also un­cov­ered “anti- Semite sketches” at­trib­uted to Le Cor­bus­ier, and showed that the French ar­chi­tect had spent 18 months in Vichy, where the Nazis ran a French pup­pet gov­ern­ment, where he kept an of­fice.

Brushed Over

France’s Le Cor­bus­ier Foun­da­tion, which works to main­tain the ar­chi­tect’s mem­ory and works, elides many of those facts. A bi­og­ra­phy notes only that in 1930 Le Cor­bus­ier “con­trib­utes to the mag­a­zine Plans” and in 1933 was a “mem­ber of the re­view ‘Preludes.’” His Vichy role was de­scribed as an “ex­tended stay” in the town.

One of the foun­da­tion’s ex­perts, Jean- Louis Co­hen, said he was “shocked by this con­tro­versy.”

The or­ga­niz­ers of the Pom­pi­dou Cen­tre ex­hi­bi­tion on Le Cor­bus­ier, ti­tled “The Mea­sures of Man,” de­fended their own omis­sion of the fas­cism rev­e­la­tions by say­ing the dis­play “doesn’t ad­dress the en­tire work” of the ar­chi­tect. They also said Le Cor­bus­ier’s work for the Vichy regime was han­dled in a pre­vi­ous ex­hi­bi­tion back in 1987.

Serge Klars­feld, a French lawyer fa­mous as a Nazi-hunter and for lob­by­ing on be­half of fam­i­lies of Jews de­ported from France dur­ing the war, said those ar­gu­ments were in­suf­fi­cient.

“All the as­pects of Le Cor­bus­ier’s per­son­al­ity” should be in­cluded in the Pom­pi­dou Cen­tre ex­hi­bi­tion, Klars­feld told AFP.

He added that Le Cor­bus­ier’s anti- Semitic views ex­pressed in his jour­nals were rel­e­vant to a 1925 ur­ban plan he came up with — never en­acted — which called for Paris’s his­toric cen­ter to be razed and built over with his de­signs. One of the neigh­bor­hoods in­cluded a dis­trict long been home to Jews in the cap­i­tal.

Marc Perel­men, a writer who has in­ves­ti­gated the ar­chi­tect’s ideas for more than three decades and long pointed to his ap­par­ent fas­cism, agreed.

“His ideas — his ur­ban plan­ning and his ar­chi­tec­ture — are viewed separately, whereas they are one and the same thing,” he said.


In this file pic­ture taken on April 3 French au­thor Xavier de Jarcy poses pre­sent­ing his book “Le Cor­bus­ier, Un Fas­cisme Fran­cais” (Le Cor­bus­ier, a French Fas­cism) in Boulogne-Bil­lan­court, out­side Paris.

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