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Critical Analysis of Lutyens’ Review on Le Corbusier’s Architecture

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Critical Analysis of Lutyens’ Review on Le Corbusier’s Architecture


Edwin Lutyens and Le Corbusier are both master architects in the early 20th century; however, they were facing different situations. Lutyens, who supported traditional architectural style, was conventional thought to be at the end of an era while Le Corbusier, who suggested modernist architecture, was the beginning of a new chapter (Ridley 2001). In 1923, Le Corbsier wrote a book “Vers Une Architecture (VUA)”, introducing his consideration of architecture. His thought was then spread to Britain after the the English version was published in the country. As the proposal of Corbusier is contrary to what Lutyens had firmly believed, in 1928, Edwin Lutyens wrote an article as an response to this book named “The Robotism of Architecture” demonstrating his thought towards Le Corbusier’s proposal in his book.

Villa La Roche, which was designed in 1923 for Raoul La Roche, a banker from Switzerland as a residence and was also used as an exhibition space (Edwards 2011). According to Cohen (2006, 23), La Roche was believed to be the first example of Corbusier’s famous “Five Points of Architecture” (Witt and Witt 1987, 147) It was also the first time that Le Corbusier implement his proposal of “architectural promenade” (Cohen 2006, 24). Therefore, as the quintessence of Corbusier’s consideration of modern architecture, la Roche may be one of the most suitable project to test the validness of Lutyens’ criticism.

This essay will therefore illustrate how valid is Lutyen’s criticism in “The Robotism of Architecture” on Corbusier’s Villa La Roche from three aspects: humanity, aesthetics and quality.

[pic 1]Figure 1: Villa La Roche (Emden, 2015)


In the beginning of his article, Lutyens opposed to Le Corbusier’s proposition that the house should be a machine. He insisted that humanity is an essential part of an architecture. However, although Le Corbusier emphasized “machine” in his book, which sounded extreme and lack of concern of humanity, he did not actually abandon human aspect completely in his architecture.

First of all, humanity in the villa may find expression in the design of the building related with human’s experience. Promenade, which is one of the essential architectural element for spacial experience firstly appeared in this villa (Davies 2016, 46). In La Roche, the promenade was elaborately arranged in order to guide the visitors from the gallery to the purist room (Edwards 2011). The visitors are led though a series of beautifully illuminated experiential space, and may get wonderful view from specific point (Edwards 2011). Moreover, the varying spaces in the villa allows the visitors experience different perception of the house according to their own choices of routes (Edwards 2011).

[pic 2]

                      Figure 2:  Ramp in the Gallery (Emden, 2015)

Furthermore, humanity may appears in the connection with nature. the windows in the villa not only bring light to the interior, providing beautiful light condition, but also introduces the outside scene into the interior space, allowing the interior room to associate with nature, and the greenery, the air, and the light are considered to be essential in maintaining dweller’s mentally peace and physical healthy (Osman 2000, 86). Moreover, in the library, which is a place for meditation and rest, can also see the branches of the tree in the yard through the glass wall, when people are reading and considering in the library, a glimpse of the green plant may generate a relax and peace feeling (Sbriglio 1997, 40). Apart from these, the roof garden, which is one of the Five Points Towards a New Architecture, although mainly for functional purpose, may also be one of the examples that the humanity exists in this house for it provides space for dwellers to connect with nature.

[pic 3]Figure 3: Glass Wall near Balcony (Emden, 2015)

The humanity of the design of Le Courbsier reflect on the use of color. Multiple colors were applied in the villa, and the reason of the choice of the colors, apart from the reason mentioned above, may be the function of the space, which closely related with human’s mood or creating different atmosphere. Although the thought of polychrome and the purist color have not been carried out completely, in La Roche, Corbusier’s thought towards color can be easily found. Corbusier mentioned that white may benefit residents’ consideration, and pale natural color helps to create warm atmosphere(买的书, which provided reason to the choice of the color for the interior of villa La Roche. For example, the library, in which people learn and consider, was painted white, and the dinning room, where may require comfortable atmosphere, was painted salmon pink.

[pic 4]

Figure 4: Dining room (Emden, 2015)


Lutyens then criticized about the ugliness of the architecture of Le Corbusier’s building. It may be true that a house made of stone and brick is beautiful, but a modern houses as La Roche, may has special beauty in aspects such as light, purity and symmetry.

Firstly, The beauty of light mostly associates with the design of the windows. Although a variety types of windows were provided in the villa, the horizontal window, which is considered to be a mark in Le Corbusier’s architecture, may be a representative example on providing elegant light. In La Roche, two long horizontal windows, which introduce the light in to fill the space, were arranged in the art gallery, traverse the superior elevation (Foundation Le Corbsier n.d., 6). The light that poured through the windows varies depending on the time of day, generating different perception for the visitors from sun rise to sun set (Sbriglio 1997, 39). apart from the horizontal windows, the beauty of light may also be generated by the glass wall on the side of a small balcony over the entrance. As the visitors entered the hall, the transparent wall brings soft light to the space from behind and generates an unrealistic feeling for the visitors (Sbriglio 1997, 39).



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