"Revolution can be avoided" : Le Corbusier and Taylorism in France, 1914-1929

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2005-01-01
Authors
Guenther, Ian
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Le Corbusier's (1887-1965) adoption of Frederick Winslow Taylor's Scientific Management in 1918 was a pivotal moment in Modern architecture. Taylorism promised social stability through the rationalization of the factory, increased profits and workers' wages. The adaptation of Tayloristic standardization and modularity formed the aesthetic basis of Le Corbusier's architecture of the 1920s. Taylorism endowed his architecture and urbanism with a greater social mission, justifying an elitist, technocratic and authoritarian ideology in the socially conservative tradition of the French political Right. The thesis examines the development of Taylorism in France as a component of dirigisme during and after World War I. The planned economy was a critical tool of the technocratic state and advocated by the authoritarian and traditionalist Action Francaise. Viewing Le Corbusier in this model, the thesis traces the formation of his political ideology through his early education and career. The maisons en série projects, new systems of construction employing the Tayloristic principles of standardization and modularity, were critical to the formulation of Le Corbusier's Purist aesthetic during the 1920s, and are examined in the villas at Weissenhof, Stuttgart (1927) and the Villa Savoye, Poissy (1928). Social organization is examined in the Contemporary City for Three Million (1922) and Plan Voisin (1925). The Workers' City at Pessac (1924) is studied as a synthesis of the Le Corbusier's architecture and urbanism. The principles of Taylorism adopted by Le Corbusier established him as a leader in the Modern movement, fulfilling his aspirations as a messianic figure. Through the rationalization of construction and planning systems, Le Corbusier's legacy profoundly shaped architecture in the twentieth century.

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Interdisciplinary Graduate Studies
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