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Le Corbusier, Teilhard de Chardin and The Planetisation of Mankind'

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The modern world has made all things interrelated, the relations are continuous and contiguous around the globe, affected by nuances and diversity... The question is man and his environment, an event of local as well as of global order. 1 Le Corbusier was very interested in the ideas of the Jesuit priest and distinguished palaeontologist Pere Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. 'Do you know this man and his research (Palaeontology, the human condition, the future)?' wrote the architect to his friend and collaborator Andreas Speiser on 22 December, 1954.2 In this letter (Fig. 1) he relates that he spent the whole journey back from India reading the priest's works. 'I was very favourably impressed by him' he wrote, 'I must get in touch with him before long.' Le Corbusier includes in the letter a list of papers by Teilhard, which he must have believed to be of particular interest. The 'etc' at the end of this list is of interest, indicating the extent of the architect's reading of this profoundly religious man. Le Corbusier asterisked the first essay, linking it with the word ' avenir ' or future and also the word ' definitives ,' definitive answers, a word which he then crossed out with one line, leaving it clearly legible. It is as though he believed that Teilhard had the answers that he was so desperately looking for, but years of disappointment, secrecy and disillusionment had made him wary. Being first on the list, the essay La Planetisation Humaine , 'The Planetisation of Mankind' is probably the most important in terms of Le Corbusier's reading of Teilhard.3 In this paper I will focus on the essay in an attempt to deduce just why Le Corbusier was so impressed by the works of this radical priest. In doing so, I hope to shed some light on Le Corbusier's spiritual agenda for architecture, an aspect of his work which still remains remarkably obscure. In particular I will focus on the concept of community expressed in the Unite block in Marseilles (1952). It should be mentioned that Le Corbusier does make other references to Teilhard, for example in an interesting stream of consciousness in one of his sketchbooks of 1960.4 Incidents such as this indicate that the priest's ideas were a continuing source of inspiration for the architect.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 June 1999

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