May 18, 2022

Le Corbusier’s influence on architecture through mass production and digital fabrication

Le Corbusier’s influence on architecture through mass production and digital fabrication

Digital spaces and manufacturing technology have become more important than ever in the current state of our post-pandemic society, becoming increasingly accessible and enabling rapid and spontaneous acts of iteration and evolution. These technologies have made it possible to mass-produce non-standard and highly differentiated building components in the same facility as their standardized counterpart, transforming the way buildings and their respective components are conceived, designed and represented, as well as the way they are displayed. manufactured, assembled. , and product.

The beauty of digital manufacturing is in its ability to blend aspects of mass production and handcrafted production to the point where the costs almost disappear. The technology’s ability to manufacture in such a simple and almost seamless way raises questions of its potential to dramatically alter our current perception of architecture, thus producing the question: Has the influence of mass production in architecture resulted in an intentional loss of design?

Villa Savoye, Le Corbusier, 1929. Image © Flickr User: End UserVilla Savoye, Le Corbusier, 1929. Image © Flickr User: End UserVilla Stein, Le Corbusier, 1927. Image © Víctor Patiño GeorgeCourtesy of PRN Digital fabrication Roman Keller+ 15

Mass production in the early 20th century created a new look within architecture that was defined by standardization, repetition, and lack of ornamentation. Le Corbusier’s serial buildings (1924) says that “mass production requires a pursuit of standards, and standards lead to perfection”, which perpetuates the argument that modern architecture is just becoming a conveyor belt product. Mass-produced architecture consolidated a visual order of efficiency that modern architects identify as contemporary and functional, and European architects aspired to create architecture inspired by mass production: modern architecture for the modern age. This article explores the work and influences of Le Corbusier, considered by many to be the pioneer of modern architecture.


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Courtesy of PRN Digital fabrication Roman Keller
Courtesy of PRN Digital fabrication Roman Keller

Monzie’s Villa Stein (1927)

Villa Stein, Le Corbusier, 1927. Image © Víctor Patiño George
Villa Stein, Le Corbusier, 1927. Image © Víctor Patiño George

Le Corbusier’s Villa Stein-de-Monzie, also called Les Terrasses (1927) is representative of one of the most emblematic works of Le Corbusier’s career. The Villa Stein is an architectural vessel used to represent the maturity and accomplishment of the formal, architectural and design elements he experienced in the ten years before the buildings were constructed.

The construction and interior of the building bore many similarities to new modernist mass-produced automobiles, increasing their use and popularity throughout the 1900s. The building exhibited an absolute lack of decorative detail, with all surfaces simply flat , smooth and unadorned. Just as the automobiles were emphatically monochromatic, so were the color palettes used in the design of the building, which is its most notable change from the car being Le Corbusier’s decision to favor the lighter selection. The color white was the favorite palette of many modernists, as it symbolized the immaculate purity they sought to convey.

Villa Stein, Le Corbusier, 1927. Image © David T.
Villa Stein, Le Corbusier, 1927. Image © David T.

Although the Villa Stein appears to be mass-produced, inhabiting the characteristics of mass-production aesthetics, its appearance is deceiving. The building was simply painted to resemble the original monolithic material.

Villa Savoye (1929)

Villa Savoye, Le Corbusier, 1929. Image © Flickr User: End User
Villa Savoye, Le Corbusier, 1929. Image © Flickr User: End User

Le Corbusier’s Villa Savoye is one of the most important contributions to modern architecture of the 20th century. The building is a modern take on a French country house that aims to celebrate and react to the new age of the machine and orient itself towards industrial progress. The building’s detachment from its physical context allows its design to be contextually integrated with the mechanistic era of the early 1900s, conceptually defining the house as a mechanized entity. Le Corbusier was increasingly intrigued by steamboat technology and design, and this minimalist, streamlined result born of the culmination of innovative engineering techniques and modular design was the product of that interest.

Villa Savoye, Le Corbusier, 1929. Image © Flickr User: End User
Villa Savoye, Le Corbusier, 1929. Image © Flickr User: End User

Villa Savoye is a house designed on an architectural promenade and is best experienced in its abundance in the way the occupant moves through the spaces. It is only when one becomes familiar with the subtle particularities that the movement and proportionality of the spaces evoke a sense of monumentality within the suburbs of Paris.

Le Corbusier said: “The house is a machine for living”. This not only translates to the design of a human-scale assembly line, but further suggests that the design is set to adopt innovative qualities and advancements found in other areas of industry.

Villa Savoye, Le Corbusier, 1929. Image © Flickr User: End User
Villa Savoye, Le Corbusier, 1929. Image © Flickr User: End User

Dom-ino house (1914)

trada Provinciale 87, Montallegro, Agrigento, Sicily.  Image © Espace Caviar
trada Provinciale 87, Montallegro, Agrigento, Sicily. Image © Espace Caviar

Le Corbusier’s true representation of dwellings envisioned to be created by mass production was achieved from 1914-1915 with the design of the Maison Dom-ino, a standardized two-story open-plan house composed of concrete slabs supported by columns and a staircase. Neither the walls nor the rooms were present in the construction, just the skeleton.

The system was intended to be a prototype as a physical platform for mass-produced housing with the intention of redefining domestic architecture by embracing the versatile and affordable new technology of reinforced concrete in the service of modernism. The units would be mass-produced and lined up like a series of dominoes on a table, forming rows of houses of different designs. Jeanneret described the design as a “system of constructions which can be arranged according to infinite combinations of plans”.

Strada Provinciale del Puntone 29, Bagno di Gavorrano, Grosseto, Tuscany.  Image © Espace Caviar
Strada Provinciale del Puntone 29, Bagno di Gavorrano, Grosseto, Tuscany. Image © Espace Caviar

Space Caviar’s 99 Dom-ino takes the centenary of Le Corbusier’s design as the trigger for an investigation into Italian domesticity and the relationship with the landscape over the past century. 99 Dom-ino was presented in June 2014 at the Corderie de l’Arsenale as part of Monditalia during Fundamentals, the 14th International Architecture Exhibition at the Venice Biennale. Designer Alicia Ongay-Perez was commissioned to create a series of concrete modules inspired by the Maison Dom-ino to accompany the films.

Although the design originated as a solution to build affordable, standardized housing to meet the needs of the times, the domino system is claimed to offer just the opposite. The idea that these systems are designed to accommodate the qualities of flexibility and variation in the deployment of dwellings implies that the architect’s vision for individual design is always present in the process, and not completely overshadowed by the threat that buildings become conveyor belt products. .

Strada Statale 18, Cartolano, Catanzaro, Calabria.  Image © Espace Caviar
Strada Statale 18, Cartolano, Catanzaro, Calabria. Image © Espace Caviar

Over the years, advancements in technology have done the same for designers and those working in construction. The technology has since evolved and changed, expanding exponentially into different methods and systematically replacing outdated mechanical methods. Le Corbusier’s designs reflected this change with the design of the Villa Savoye as a mechanized entity. With this change came the fall of identical copies, shifting mass production from mechanical to algorithmic reproduction.

Aquahoja.  Image courtesy of MIT Media Lab
Aquahoja. Image courtesy of MIT Media Lab

This process has fostered even greater fluidity between the design, development, and manufacturing build stages than what we have seen in previous approaches. Previously, traditional approaches tended towards a step-by-step process that was more accumulative in nature, with no ability to take shortcuts in the design process, however, with the potential that digital fabrication brings to the field of architectural design, the ability to immediately uprooting structures from the design information base and generation alone offers architects and designers a new perspective in the design discipline.


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