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Corbu and the French Riots

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Plastic has a article on architecture and the riots in France. The piece cited in the Seattle times makes no mention of Corbu, but somehow the submitter in Plastic lays the blame at his doorstep, even though he built none of the high rise housing in the suburbs in France. Maybe I'm being an apologist for Corbu (Yes the Plan Voisin was a bad idea, but was it ever seriously considered?) Modernism's great failure was the naieve and utopian way in which it tried to make people live, but blaming Corbu for this (or Pruitt Igoe) is like blaming Abraham Lincoln for the current state of the Republican party; sure they're connected, but can he be blamed for what was done with his legacy?

 
Nov 15, 05 2:33 pm
ochona

the linked article out of the plastic piece is mindblowing

http://www.city-journal.org/html/12_4_the_barbarians.html

le corbusier was just one in a long line of french "reformers" who saw the tabula rasa, the clean slate as the way to change society for the better. robespierre. napoleon. hausmann. corbusier?

indeed, there is a symbolic irony to the fact that car-burning is the protest method of choice. fire, the great destroyer and purifier.

i was talking with a woman from stockholm at a party last week and voiced my admiration for scandinavian modernism. "some of us view the modern period as a giant mistake," she said.

Nov 15, 05 2:57 pm  · 
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http://www.archinect.com/forum/threads.php?id=27685_100_42_0

Corbu is not having a good month.

Nov 15, 05 3:01 pm  · 
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I guess modernism hasn't either

Nov 15, 05 3:02 pm  · 
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ochona

i think what's had a bad month is social engineering

and corbu was a mighty big proponent of social engineering

the article was fascinating, especially the part about how the residents of the cites view people like ambulance drivers and firemen

sounds a lot like the folks in NO shooting at the helicopters as they came to rescue people

so, extreme government intervention and its polar opposite create the same results?

Nov 15, 05 3:19 pm  · 
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brian buchalski

there was also an article on the front page of yesterday's wall street journal that specifically mentioned le corbusier and the riots. sadly, i had an abbreviated brunch and was unable to read the article thoroughly so i'm unable to provide a proper summary.

Nov 15, 05 3:42 pm  · 
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norm

has anyone ever seen a good film about corbu?

Nov 15, 05 3:46 pm  · 
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I think Le Corbusier is to blame for this too.

Did you know that Pruitt Igoe and the World Trade Center towers are by the same architect?

Nov 15, 05 3:58 pm  · 
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liberty bell

Awww, puddles, you had to cut brunch short? I'm really sad to hear that.... ;-)

Nov 15, 05 4:01 pm  · 
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Janosh

Oddly enough, Corb cited the prevention of riots for his Plan Voisin. Whoops.

Nov 15, 05 11:26 pm  · 
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French

Have any of you visited the cité radieuse? I mean, if all housing project were so refined, detailed and well built, nobody would want to set these suburb on fire. Architects of the modern period knew that society would require soon or later large scale housing buildings, they just wanted those to be well designed. French society didn't wait for Corbu to think about those, since many where built without his advice. He's responsible of nothing but thinking naively that society would want to put money and effort on those, while Europe in the 50's was just in need of erasing it's dark past and house many homeless poor people and new immigrants brought to rebuild the countries as fast as possible.

Nov 16, 05 4:37 am  · 
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doberman

French has got a point.
Funnily enough a lot of the 'cites radieuses' which were initially social housing built to accommodate working class people are now inhabited by the upper class. The one in Marseille is full of doctors and lawyers who love its modern feel and enjoy the spatial qualities of the apartments. Quite a paradoxical situation but Corb must have done something right... His vision was to provide high-quality mass housing and a wide array of services all integrated into a single package but unfortunately a lot of his modernist followers dumbed down his theories and designed bland, repetitive and lousy hi-rise estates in which they tried to cram as many dwellings as possible (what is known as the 'post war reconstruction effort' over there). They only used his theories partially and in a totally biased manner as a way to justify the cheap crap that was being built at the time. Although i too have some reservations about Corb's work you gotta give the guy some credit and aknowledege that, had his vision been truly followed, a lot of today's french suburbs would look very different. That does not mean that in a corb's world the current problems wouldnt exist but they might have occured to a lesser degree.

Nov 16, 05 5:46 am  · 
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BOTS

Napoleon had the right idea when it came to grand gestures in urban planning. Those lovely tree lined boulevards of Paris are a shinning example of how to get your riot police (army) across town fast to quell any decent.

Nov 16, 05 6:25 am  · 
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doberman

more like Hausmann actually...

Nov 16, 05 6:29 am  · 
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BOTS

I defer

Nov 16, 05 8:51 am  · 
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Although Hausmann was working for Napoleon III.

Nov 16, 05 9:20 am  · 
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pomotrash

Is the real problem the architecture though? I think most of these kids are pissed because they feel marginalized between two cultures-
that of the French and their Northern Africa/Arabic heritage. One can certainly argue that the reason the Modernist doctrine of Socialist inspired housing blocks failed was not because of the architecture, but because of a society's failure to develop a feasible plan to end poverty.

I bet move-in day on these housing projects was pretty sweet, till the occupants realized that despite have new housing, they were still going to be without a job because of their lack of education/skill/prejudice by society etc...

I'd like to believe that architecture is that empowering, but it can't do everything.

Nov 16, 05 10:34 am  · 
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pomotrash

Also,

we have our own "Plan Vousin" here in LA. It is called Park La Brea. There was a time in its history where it was working class housing, though now it seems to have been over run by yuppies, and uptight Westsiders.

My point is that the group tower thing works, as long as the economic level of the occupants is above poverty. Group poor people together in high concentrations and you'll eventually get "Pruitt Igoe" no matter how well designed it is.

Nov 16, 05 10:39 am  · 
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ochona

prairie shores in chicago works, too

god, it's beautiful

but i think what we're saying is wrong is the "tabula rasa" method in which pre-Modern ideas about urbanism and community interaction were completely jettisoned. do people naturally congregate in vertical cities situated in parkland? i have been to a few of these areas around paris (nanterre, st-denis, and i rode one metro all the way to mairie d'evry once, accidentally, because i got lost in le chatelet) and they feel as alien and inhuman as cabrini-green or the robert taylor homes in chicago

Nov 16, 05 11:07 am  · 
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doberman

pomotrash.
I wholeheartedly agree with your post. Architecture only is not to blame for these kid's anger although poor design probably also plays a part in their discontent.

One of my posts in another discussion about the riots was quite similar to yours. In my opinion the main reason for these kids' anger is the lack of jobs and opportunities and the fact that they are ostracized by the rest of society.

Nov 16, 05 11:24 am  · 
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.

there was also a philisophical argument to the boulevards. That of perspective, and man's place in the reality of the world and posibly the context of the city and state? I read something like that in the Arcades project by Benjamin - although I still cant figure out what the point of the arcades project is.

Lake Meadows is an excellent example of Corbu combined with the effect of the boulevard done right in Chicago.

Nov 16, 05 12:07 pm  · 
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.

ochona - is lake meadows and prarrie shores the same complex?

Nov 16, 05 12:26 pm  · 
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ochona

prairie shores is s of mccormick place on king dr between cermak and 35th (i think) whereas (i think) lake meadows is farther south

my chicago geography is failing me right now, though

Nov 16, 05 3:25 pm  · 
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antipod

I always thought that Paris' boulevards were designed so wide to make them difficult to impossible to barricade.

Personally I think the failure of schemes like corb's was the concept of urban planning itself. Zoning has a lot to answer for!

Nov 17, 05 8:40 am  · 
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.

Lake Meadows however is the realization of "tower in a park setting". I'm surprised its not studied more. I used to visit friends who lived there when I was in college and I never looked at that type af architecture the same after that - the way the facades change with the sun and seasons is awsome. Who says moderism cant be poetic?

That said I think its a shame what they're doing in Chicago right now tearing down these other excellent examples of moderist construction. The faliure of the Chicago public housing blocks is the management and cutting off these blocks from the city - not the structures themselves. Why is no one screaming bloody murder that we are throwing away perfectly good concrete super-structures ( which could be privatized, & reclad to be marketable again ) that I'd estimate at 20-30 million U.S.? And we replace them with false framed gabled lowrises that cost $200 s.f.? The look has changed but the principle has not - big brother aint gonna take care of you.

Nov 17, 05 8:56 am  · 
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.

Theres another project at Tayler and Ashland - 4 cruciform towers around an irregular kidney bean shaped park. I saw the almost identical pencil drawing somewhere in school and I want to attribute it to Corbu - these are slated for demo. Will the preservation society step in? No. Thrush development corp is going to get rich with their federal matching funds to tear down federal buildings which were given to local government, to build more federal owned housing where people will get more federal money to rent. Meanwhile down the street a University has a lack of housing and needs to raise tuition to build more dorms. Does anyone see the disconnect here? Have we lost our minds?

Nov 17, 05 9:00 am  · 
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ochona

there was the project in chinatown that was recladded and renovated...that was actually quite nice...and they are redoing/have redone hilliard homes as well

but i would have to respectfully disagree on whether some of the high-rises that the CHA is tearing down were good examples of modernist construction. lake meadows, prairie shores, etc are EXCELLENT examples and yes, i wonder why they're not studied more. but there are differences between lake meadows and robert taylor homes. (i also forgot sandburg village in old town and dearborn park as examples of good modernist urban renewal in chicago, although not modeled on corbusier as much as LM and PS)

lake meadows was INTENDED to be mixed-income, whereas robert taylor / cabrini-green / etc were always meant to be vertical storage for blacks. this dichotomy can be seen from the very start: lake meadows was designed by SOM, cabrini-green by...?

lake meadows is steel and curtain wall, cabrini-green is--i mean, was--concrete frame with brick infill, the same "cheap" technology used to build factories and warehouses in chicago.

and we cannot discount the very powerful negative connotation these towers (cabrini, horner, stateway, taylor, etc) have for both blacks and whites. they became a psychic scar on chicago's psyche and yes, the faux-traditional swill that has replaced them maybe isn't styled any better...but to people who have lived through the era of the projects, they sure look like an improvement

three years ago my wife and i went to look at an apartment on halsted south of north (hee hee) right across from the then-abandoned-but-not-yet-torn-down cabrini-green. there was this one apartment we really kinda liked. but then we looked out the window and had a lovely view of an apartment that looked like it had been torched from the inside

the only solution is the bulldozer

Nov 17, 05 11:10 am  · 
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.

We cant just tear down our history - one day we'll look back and laugh at this stage of history where social engineering was so broadly attempted. Isnt what makes cities great as built environments is the layering of history, stories and objects? These buildings do not have to remain - I was refering to saving the super-structure of cast in place concrete. It's structural logic could be adapted to any curtain wall, cladding, infill, panel system we can concieve. Why are we throwing away these skeletons? Was not one of the early principle ideals of the new modernists a interchangeable system of construction?

Nov 17, 05 11:21 am  · 
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.

I think Lake Meadows was Loebl Schlossman

Nov 17, 05 11:24 am  · 
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pomotrash

You have to ask yourself the question: IF Cabrini Green were around today, had been sold off to the private sector, which then remodeled it and sold off the apts. as condos, would you buy one.

I'm guessing the answer would be "Yes!"

As I said earlier, it has more to do with the high concentrations of marginalized peoples in one area that lead to high crime, despiration, and a general lack of hope amoung the populace.

What needs to be done is a sucessful partnership between governments and the development sector to foster a sucessful reformatting of how different economic groups co-exist.

The general problem is that most wealthier people do not (for obvious reasons) want to live next to poor people because the poor are stigmatized by societial norms and pre-conditioning. The hard part of the equation is changing peoples mind about the impoverished masses and trying to see a larger unity between socio-economic groups.

How this is done, I have no idea.

Nov 17, 05 12:10 pm  · 
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pomotrash

One more thought.

Architects certainly play a role in regards to the above, but it has almost nothing to do with design.

Corbs housing didn't suck because it was poorly designed, it sucked because it had so many poor people stuffed into it. Because they were at the bottom of the economic pile these people generally lack the optimism that you and I take for granted due to our education, drive, and postition in society.

Nov 17, 05 12:15 pm  · 
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pomotrash

Architects need to move past being focused on design and begin focusing on giving people hope and an awe of the beauty of the culture of man.

Nov 17, 05 12:17 pm  · 
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.

Cabrini is still alive - about 30% of the original buildings are still inhabited and standing. But the population is around 10,000 versus 75,000 is the late 70's.

As for rich people not wanting to live next to poor - rich people are moving onto Cabrini property in townhouses intertwined with the remaining blocks.

The orientation of those towers to the street grid and spacing between allows for awsome views of the lake and skyline of Chicago the townhomes could never achieve.








Nov 17, 05 12:26 pm  · 
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pomotrash

So maybe it becomes about remixing density?

. - How has the neighborhood changed? Besides the Starbucks...

Nov 17, 05 12:29 pm  · 
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.

well you can walk within a mile of it with out being raped, knifed, approached or killed now, unlike the 70's and 80's. The people in there are desimated - theres no life left. However that means no outward agression really. Its almost like a big zoo - where the inhabitants of the zoo have to watch the priveledged lives of those on the outside all around them. Its really really sad. I live 3/4 of a mile east and I'd never know it was there unless I had to drive accross it to get to wicker park. But then I could take the subway instead and go under it.

If you ever get the chance to see these people - they work at the starbucks and Dominicks around the corner - look into the eyes, its like most of them are dead, or massively depressed or something.

Nov 17, 05 12:37 pm  · 
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pomotrash

Then it is more about mixing socio-economic cultures on a micro-level.

Then again if you are making 100k and your neighbor is making 12k
there is bound to be some animosity.

Nov 17, 05 1:00 pm  · 
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[If I were working at Starbucks or Dominicks my eyes would look dead, massively depressed or something. I live in a neighborhood full of immigrants, and it suits me just fine, and yes Le Corbusier is to blame for that too.]

Nov 17, 05 1:02 pm  · 
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.

Rita - its the look of indifference to the world, or hopelessness. If I worked there I would at least know I could prob do something else at a later time. Thats hope. I dont see hope in a lot of the people there at all. I was raised in the burbs and find public housing fasinating. The idea that one could let others have such a control over your life and situation ( or percieved situation) while across the street someone is totally free is mind-boggling. Its like an invisible cage expressed through modernist design.

Pomo - its not about mixing as much as people betting on the towers comming down and their property values going up. Buy low sell high.

Nov 17, 05 2:28 pm  · 
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not per--corell

wait, so corb did cabrini green in chicago and that's what caused the riots in france? dude...that's amazing.

Nov 17, 05 2:30 pm  · 
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.

there is some federal and state incentives to developers to mantain something like 15% low income units in the new developments. Some of these developments in other less appealing locals of the city are straight 100% swap outs of towers for townhouses, for low-income residents.

Nov 17, 05 2:32 pm  · 
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.

NPC - I think were trying to expose the fact that modernist architecture is not to blame nor is a product of breakdowns of civilization and culture by using Cabrini as example of moderist planning principles.

Nov 17, 05 2:35 pm  · 
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not per--corell

awww. just stirrin' the pot.

Nov 17, 05 2:52 pm  · 
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borg1

We at the Borg Collective are very pleased at the sheer number of socially engineered housing cubes that have appeared on your planet since the 1950's. We are especially pleased by the most recent cube in Madrid by the crony designers at MVRDV. It will surely sprout more insurrection in Spain and facilitate assimilation of your planet. RESISTANCE IS FUTILE!

Nov 17, 05 2:55 pm  · 
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Oh that look of hopelessness.

Nov 17, 05 3:08 pm  · 
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French

Are you guys related to the swedish tennis player?

Nov 17, 05 3:11 pm  · 
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.

exactly

Nov 17, 05 3:23 pm  · 
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French

So that's what he's benn doin' all this time....

Nov 17, 05 3:34 pm  · 
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c

a year or two ago i wrote a paper that touched on the the blame issue around corb et. I almost wish the riots had been then and i could have thrown them into the mix...tant pis. I found there was a suprising correlation between the reception of certain architectures and the change in administratios -

French, I'd be interested to know what you think of the issue. One of my arguments was that the post-war building boom which gave rise to a lot of the modernist projects, was neglected if not vilified by the more socialist gov't which came in later, one which also had less $ to maintain the buildings, especially as budgets and other powers were becoming decentralised....
this is v. different from the US, as we have less state subsidized housing, and considerably less attention to what the housing ( state or private) looks like. also think of the way the Unite in marseilles was made possible in large part due to corb's relation w. the mayor @ the time-
by the way- the pictures of the demolition of the hlm's are awesome...

Nov 17, 05 9:11 pm  · 
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newstreamlinedmodel

It seems to me that Modernism that rich assholes build for themselves is pretty nice and the Modernism that rich assholes grudgingly allow racist bureaucrats to build for people they don’t give a shit about sucks. (you’ve got to be pretty hard core pomo to want to blow up the Lever house)

The only thing Modernism failed to do was come up with an aesthetic style that makes it okay to be an asshole.

Nov 17, 05 10:06 pm  · 
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French

c
I had sort of a discussion in another thread where I talked about the post war building boom. The main problem to me is that building constructued in this period had to be very cheap and quickly built, not made to last for 50 years as some of them have. Decisions had to be made quickly and what may have been considered as a temporary solution to face an urgent situation has become a rule and a set of standard and regulation both in terms of regulation and esthetics, but also iun terms of budget. So the suburbs have been built with very low standards from the 50's to the seventies, and after that, well you have the start of the fossile energy crisis in the mid 70's, the end of the "trente glorieuse" and the european governments had no more money to replace these standards by something better.
Once again, the ideas of Corb and the moderns to me, where an attempt to rationalize and to embelish a necessity that society where facing. They didn't think that mass scale housing where good for society, but that there was nothing else to do, and thus you had to do it the right way. They were just trying to design mass scale housing. Governement were already deciding to build them anyway. In a better world, money and energy would have been put to design these suburbs according to good architect's descriptions.
When you read carefully the texts and projects of Corbu, you realize it's not only about putting a tower on a grass field. The design of the tower itself gives a meaning to everything.
Such a long post to say very little. Sorry yall, I thing my written English is not at it's best this morning.

Nov 18, 05 5:27 am  · 
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badass japanese cookie

"Did you know that Pruitt Igoe and the World Trade Center towers are by the same architect?"

yes! and it's a bit of a profound coincidence, no? ever seen the footage of the demolition in koyaansqaatsi? god that gave me nightmares as a kid.


and speaking from experience:

minorities have it pretty shitty in french culture. corbu or not.






Nov 18, 05 11:43 am  · 
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