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The Role of the Visual in Modern Architecture

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The role of the visual in today's society is quite apparent. Beautiful, flashy images are everywhere in the media, and all of them serve the same purpose. The purpose of all of these images is to get you, the consumer to buy the product that is being sold, or at least buy into the idea that a particular product represents. The role of the visual in modern architecture is very much the same. The purpose of the visual in modern architecture is to publicize or privatize a building through any media necessary to create the desired representation, and thereby sell the idea.

In the case of Le Corbusier, the goal was to create a very visual and public architecture. He recognized that not everybody would be able to go and personally see his buildings, thus he decided to bring his buildings to them. Obviously Corbusier believed very strongly in the representational value of his buildings, "I prefer drawing to talking. Drawing is faster, and leaves less room for lies." In this quotation Corbusier describes just how important the role of the visual is to him. Experience is not necessary, and neither is discussion, just visualization. In the case of Villa Savoye (Poissy, France 1928-1929) Corbusier created a building based upon his principles of architecture, and the idea of the house as a machine for living. These programmatic elements yielded a simple building that followed his five points of architecture (peloti, ribbon windows, a roof garden, free faÐ"§ade, and free plan). The way in which he composes these elements and ultimately how he represents the building are what make this a truly interesting piece of architecture, instead of a place for storing hay (as the building was once used).

The physical appearance of the building (what it would look like if we were to visit) was an attempt by Corbusier to create a truly mechanical building, "A house is a machine for living in". The building is built in the middle of a completely flat field, upon which this foreign object is placed, described as "Ð'...looking as if a spaceship had landedÐ'..." The building itself contains many of the same elements that one would find in an ocean liner. Elements such as a roof deck, railings and the curvaceous walls of the roof deck which look like the smokestacks of a ship. While these elements help to create Corbusier's desired image the way in which he represents these element, and the building as a whole are what make it truly stand out.

The few original pictures that Corbusier took of this building are what actually put Villa Savoye on the map as an architectural achievement. The images speak of movement, seen in the ramp. They demonstrate the progression one would take from the ground to the roof, and from there to the vast expanse beyond. They also speak of the temporality of the building, as if it just happened to be there when Corbusier was walking by and decided to take this picture. There is also an inherent lack of privacy common to all of the images. It is as if the whole world can look inside of the building and see what the occupants are doing, which is precisely what Corbusier wanted. Thus he took them and published the images, which were then distributed all around the world. He also mad a movie of the building called "L'Architecture d'aujour'hui" (1929), which demonstrated his voyeuristic approach to how architecture should be seen. "Villa Savoye, for example, is an apparatus (like a cinema) that privileges the eye over the body, movement over stasis, and fragmentation over unity. Every window is a lens, a purely visual opening; circulation is a poetic event of movement, orchestrated by ramps and spiral stairways; the house acts as a dynamic and shifting catalyst to experience, not as a static and finite center of experience." Publishing these images, and the making of the movie ended up making Villa Savoye possibly the most public building of the time, and one of the most popular buildings



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