August 29: Assume the Position

2016/08/29 § Leave a comment

During this month in 1943 Le Corbusier started to work on the ‘Modulor’.

Corbusier set for himself a task to suit the soaring scale of his own ego: developing a completely, utterly  universal proportional system based on the human form, relatable to the Golden Mean and Fibonacci Sequence and legible in the British Imperial Units as well as Metric System.  (In spite of this broad reach, the focus of his dude-centric world was the male form alone, so ladies, take note.)  His Modulor was the twentieth-century response to that old chestnut, the Vitruvian Man, in which the ancient Roman architect indicated naturally-occurring proportional relationships, free from specific measure, that are common among most people (for instance, measure your height and the width of your wingspan fingertip-to-fingertip; unless you are Michael Phelps they will be very close if not virtually identical).  Even though that system, and its resonance in geometric shapes, was good enough for bajillions of architects from Rome to the Renaissance and beyond, Corb felt the urge to innovate and replace it with something sweeping, new, revolutionary and of course thus Modern.

Such a staggering development could not be expressed a few paragraphs (as Vitruvius wrote in his book) or in a mere sketch (like those simpletons in the Renaissance managed).  The resultant tome–make that two tomes, Modulor 1 & 2, as Corb’s logic could not be confined in just one volume–is a steep, steep climb, and makes Vers une architecture read like a middle school social studies textbook.  The other problem is that it’s just not usable, even for those (writers of dissertations, we suspect) who can slog through the hundreds of pages that explain the system (a recent edition by Birkhäuser runs to 580 pages).  The  vast majority of acolytes will not trouble themselves to work out the theory behind the Modulor, but, as a five-minute search on the interwebs will make certain (see here and here and here and here and here), that will not stop them from striking a pose on their study abroad trips to Marseilles.

Image: could she be an architecture major?  Just a guess! (from this source)


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