These images are details from a 1950 prefab home brochure. Similar catalogs were of course popular in the era, but the illustrations here have a strange cinematic suburban vibe, with a certain lack of happiness, an unintended a sentiment from Mad Men, a Sofia Coppola film or a Lana Del Rey song.
The women and girls in the strangely vacated lawns and streets contribute more to the idea of their lives being empty and hollow, instead of what should in the 1950s marketing spirit be some form of rejoice over the all new dream homes, kitchens and gardens.
The (NSA prone) title reads Le Corbusier in Arabic script. These are images from a book by Dr. Mohamed Hammad, published in Cairo in 1966. I was kind of captivated by the book’s visuals, well, firstly because I like this particular faded archival print aesthetics but secondly, because it got me thinking about the representation and the experience of otherness in architecture and modernity.
Here, the print quality and the language makes Le Corbusier’s work foreign to the modern western eyes. Matte instead of glossy. Arabic instead of French. And the funny thing is that as a visual representation, it becomes more “Mediterranean” and “archaic”. White houses on the rocks seem much more attached both to the Southern vernacular and the tectonics and plasticity of ancient ruins – freshly excavated and displayed in the end of 19th century – than the workings of a Swiss architect.
For me, this theme of compatibility (and incompatibility) of a Mediterranean villa or village, juxtaposed to the modern city as a machine has always been interesting to try and understand. The development from the early modern white house to platforms of car traffic and housing towers seems both natural and unnatural at the same time.
The linkage between the oriental, Southern, other and Le Corbusier became perhaps more interesting when the travelogue Voyage d’Orient was posthumously published, also, in 1966. The book charts and reveals his fascination with forms, spaces and natural physical settings found inside the chaos of Constantinople in 1915, for example. It also reveals his inability to engage with the street life – something that is also made obvious with his later sketches of vistas to the city from private balconies instead of public spaces.
Published within the context of a Middle-Eastern city, in Arabic, in an era of high-speed modernization, Dr. Hammad’s book adds a complicated layer to the story by showcasing Le Corbusier as an architectural representation to a non-Western audience, thus somehow closing a circle of references.
“Eastern North Carolina – Where prosperity is perennial”, a promotional poster, 1924.
Well, the poster manages to combine the glory of the urban into the prosperous and fertile of the rural.
Pavillion of People’s Republic of China at the 1961 Frühjahrsmesse (Spring Fair) in Leipzig, East Germany.
Brickstarter, the Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra’s project book is available for download. Focusing around “problems at the intersection of crowdfunding/sourcing, social media, urban planning and decision-making” the book features work by Rory Hyde, Joseph Grima, Bryan Boyer and Dan Hill among others.
Excerpts from a US army combat studies paper 2004, describing the Middle-Eastern city “model” to be used in military operations .
It’s a strange text in many ways, but especially if you think about the otherness aspects. This sounds more like someone explaining about the features of traditional life on an alien planet.