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Making sense of Le Corbusier's legacy

Razia Iqbal | 16:04 UK time, Thursday, 2 October 2008

corb_blog.jpgThe architectural highlight of Liverpool's European Capital of Culture is the first exhibition of Le Corbusier's work and ideas to be seen in this country for 20 years.

To his supporters, Le Corbusier - real name Charles-Édouard Jeanneret-Gris - is the godfather of modern architecture, to his detractors he is the man whose malign influence ruined our cities with the high rises built in his name in the 1950s and 1960s.

There are no Le Corbusier buildings in this country, so for those not about to rush off to Chandigarh, India, or visit the brilliant Notre-Dame-du-Haut Church in Ronchamp, France, you will have make do with his extraordinary plans, wonderful films (an amazing insight into his imagination and very rarely seen, so worth going just for these), models, and even paintings and scribbles.

I'm not sure who the exhibition is aimed at though. Those who think he is a genius will continue to do so. Others who think he is to blame for some of the worst that blights urban landscapes will also feel vindicated.

I wanted to walk away from the exhibition feeling exhilarated but, while the setting in the crypt of Liverpool's Metropolitan Cathedral was perfect, the exhibition felt sterile and clinical.

I wanted to feel Le Corbusier's intellectual passion and be swept up by his unique multi-disciplinary approach. He expanded and widened the scope of what it was possible to build and his legacy can be seen in the work of Rem Koolhaas, Frank Gehry, Zaha Hadid, Norman Foster, and David Chipperfield. His work is more relevant than ever and, sadly, I'm not convinced the exhibition successfully conveyed that.

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