Arquitectura Viva
Sunday, November 29, 2020

Le Corbusier, World Heritage

The Unesco Commitee that gathered in Istanbul on 10 July only to cut short its stay because of the 16 July coup d’etat attempt has added five new enclaves to its Heritage of Humanity list, among them 17 buildings by Le Corbusier and the battery of pavilions designed by Oscar Niemeyer for Pampulha Park in Belo Horizonte (Brazil). Inclusion in the list is doubly relevant for the world of architecture because, while on the one hand it means recognition for buildings of the Modern Movement within a canon that is already universal, on the other hand it ensures punctilious safeguarding, as a unitary set, of a roster of works scattered about in countries whose laws for protecting heritage are very different.

Rejected in two previous applications and now valued by Unesco in terms more describable as protocolarian (“a new architectural language that made a break with the past"), the Corbusier bid involved the participation of Argentina, Germany, France, Switzerland, Belgium, Japan, and India, and a selection of buildings which, scattered on three continents and spanning half a century of the career of the Swiss-born French architect, can be considered not only canonical within the Corbusian corpus, but also masterpieces of 20th-century architecture: from the villas – the Doppelhaus in the Weissenhof Estate in Stuttgart, the Villa Saboya, or the House for Dr. Curutchet in La Plata – to the international projects – the Capital Complex in Chandigarh or the National Museum of Western Art in Tokyo –, via the great projects in France, such as the Convent of La Tourette, the Chapel of Ronchamp, or the Unité d’habitation of Marseille. .

Valued by Unesco in terms similar to those of the candidacy of Le Corbusier’s oeuvre, that of the works of Niemeyer covers the pavilions – a casino, a dance hall, a nautical club, a church, and an art gallery – built in the 1940s within the framework of the garden city of Pampulha; buildings which undoubtedly show an indebtedness to the language of Le Corbusier, but expressing the confidence with which Niemeyer translated the modern heritage into a language of his own, more organic and relaxed, and therefore also more akin to Brazilian tradition. .

The growth of the list of Unesco-protected places – which until now totaled 1,031 cultural and natural enclaves – has a Hispanic coda, which in this case points to the origins of architecture, the works of Le Corbusier and Niemeyer being accompanied by Gorham’s Cave in Gibraltar – inhabited by the Neanderthals for 125,000 years and attesting to the symbolic capacity of that human species –, or the extraordinary dolmens of Antequera, erected almost 7,000 years ago and in the guestbook of which Le Corbusier, filled with admiration, wrote: ‘To my ancestors.’
Le Corbusier. Biographic Geographies

Le Corbusier. Biographic Geographies

Luis Fernández-Galiano
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