Friday, 26 August 2016

Book review: Voyage Le Corbusier: drawing on the road, by Jacob Brillhart.

The drawings that Le Corbusier made on his travels. 

Ever since I first came across my father’s copies of Le Corbusier’s books Towards a New Architecture, and The Home of Man, I have been an admirer of Le Corbusier’s drawings, and the way he managed to illustrate a point about architecture or town planning with a few simple lines.

In his youth, after graduating from high school, the young Pierre Jeanneret (as he was then known – the name Le Corbusier was adopted later) undertook a series of journeys across Europe, which he documented exhaustively with drawings and watercolours. This was a formative period in his education. He never studied architecture at a university, and when he set out on his travels he had not yet decided whether he wanted to be an artist or an architect. Towards the end, he had made up his mind.

This beautifully illustrated book charts his development through these trips through his drawings and sketches.


The author is an architect, who had previously used Le Corbusier’s journeys as a basis for his own trips, and he has assembled a chronologically arranged selection of drawings that Le Corbusier made on his travels.

The book will be of interest Corb fans of course. But it will also appeal to those who enjoy drawing buildings and the urban environment, even those who are not especially interested in Corbusier, or indeed modern architecture.

This is not a book about how to draw buildings and cityscapes, although it does discuss the materials and techniques used by Le Corbusier. But it is a book which illustrates how the process of drawing is something which we can use to help us learn to see the and understand the world around us, and in the conclusion, the author urges the reader to pick up a pencil and start drawing.  For those who enjoy such activities, or might like to, it’s an inspiring book. By showing a selection of pictures produced over time by the same artist, the author has illustrated several points.

To Le Corbusier, drawing was a means of exploring and analysing the things he saw. The pictures and the commentary illustrate how he often made several drawings of the same building or place, each one depicting a different aspect which he wanted to show.

This drawing is about the surface decoration on the capital of a column in the church of San Vitale in Ravenna. The carving is shown in great detail. The rest of the building is shown, but in less detail.



These drawings of the Doge's Palace in Venice depict the characteristic Venetian gothic windows, but they are also about the relationship between ornament and structure, and show the way the stonework fits together.



This drawing shows the Baptistery at Pisa, and is about the relationship of the buildings to each other.


This earlier drawing of the Baptistery, on the other hand, is about the surface detail.






























We see how Le Corbusier was able to deploy a whole range of techniques, depending on what it was he wanted to show, as illustrated by these two pictures of Notre Dame in Paris, made during the same trip.




The later drawings are less detailed, emphasising the buildings as volumes in relationship to one another, with less emphasis on surface detail. Drawings like this are generally more familiar, many of them having been used to illustrate his books.





However, behind that simplicity was a high level of technical skill, as his earlier works attest.

Voyage Le Corbusier: drawing on the road.
Jacob Brillhart

W.W. Norton, Feb 2016
Hardcover
ISBN 978-0-393-73356-3
7.6 × 9.6 in / 192 pages
Publisher's site
Amazon UK
Amazon US 



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