Esprit de vérité

24 Nov 2015










The School of Architecture of Valencia (ETSAV) hosts from November 18th until December 4th the exhibition Esprit de Vérité: The look OF (and ON) Le Corbusier1.

The exhibition is one of the activities of the International Congress LC2015: Le Corbusier, 50 years later (LC2015) held in the ETSAV from November 18th to 20th 2015, organized to conmemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the architect’s death. Tim Benton, professor of Art history at the Open University in Milton Keynes, and author of several publications on Le Corbusier, presented the inauguration day his recent film Les vacances de Le Corbusier, made in collaboration with filmmaker Frederic Lamasse.

Integrated within the acts celebrated during the congress, an exhibition entitled Paris n’est pas Moscu (Paris n’est pas Moscu) has also organized,  installed in the exhibition hall of the ETSAV.


Le Corbusier publishes Esprit de Vérité in June 1933 in the journal Mouvement nº1. Based in this critical, and somehow visionary text of Le Corbusier, the exhibition aims to review, through a series of audio-visual documents, both his look on the world of cinema and the one that several film directors have exerted on him and his work.

The exhibition begins with a collection of 21 images taken from the film Les bâtisseurs (Jean Epstein, 1938), housed in a corridor of the School of Architecture, trying to recreate in a sequence of frames the process of Le Corbusier drawing an ideal section of a residential building designed in a modern way and according to the ideas that at that time the architect defended.


A vigilant and voyeur Modulor sets the link to the second area of exhibition, an ephemeral cinema hall with two different spaces. In the first one, a set of panels contain the synopses of the films projected in the second space.


1. Design and setting up of the exhibition: Juan Deltell Pastor (arquitecto y profesor titular de la ETSAV) / Natalia Cardona Guerra, Pau Mendoza Muñoz, Sheila Pérez Andrés (Estudiantes ETSAV) / Collaboration in setting up (Ivet Ilieva Angelova)




Films personales de Le Corbusier (1936-38)

  • LC-1 Brazil (BN mudo 02’ 29’’)
  • LC-2 Sable (BN mudo 02’ 56’’)
  • LC-3 Bois T (BN mudo 02’ 30’’)
  • LC-4 Pierre T (BN mudo 02’ 09’’)
  • LC-5 Nungesser T (BN mudo 01’ 13’’)
  • LC-6 Vevey T (BN mudo 01’ 16’’)
  • LC-7 Vezelay T (BN mudo 00’ 44’’)

Le Corbusier shoot, between 1936 and 1938, a series of “domestic” films of different lengths with a 16mm camera, also equipped with the possibility of still photos. The documents, preserved in the Le Corbusier Fondation, are mainly domestic and travel pictures of different countries, constituting a “dynamic” complement to the notebooks in which he stored during all his life his vision exerted on everything surrounding him.

The themes are very heterogeneous, combining images from his wife Yvonne, his mother and his dog Pinceau, more abstract documents – capturing with his camera textures of certain elements and materials such as wood, stone or sand, and even the wind-, lonely landscapes breathing serenity and, finally, sequences in which he records the work activity and social behaviour of different people that he encounters in his travels, like the inhabitants of the favelas in Rio de Janeiro or the fishermen women in the Bay of Arcachon. These documents allow at the same time to approach the personal gaze of Le Corbusier himself on his own work, as homeownership in Porte Molitor or in the Ville le Lac in Vevey.

Most of the shoots are filmed hand-held camera, without a tripod, working with horizontal panoramas in order to apprehend in a continuous sequence the entire space. In the different documents is possible to find photos or scenes of unquestionable quality and beauty with much less studied fragments, with framing and lighting problems.





Architecture d’Aujourd’hui (1930)

André Bloc founded the magazine L’Architecture d’Aujourd’hui in 1929, quickly becoming an essential means of dissemination of the speech and images of the new French architecture. In 1930, and in order to spread throughout Europe the architecture that was carried out in the country at that time, the magazine asked the Belgian director Pierre Chenal (Brussels 1904, La Garenne-Colombes 1990) to film three documentaries: Bâtir, Trois Chantiers and the homonym Architecture d’Aujourd’hui.

This last film, originally accompanied with a soundtrack composed by Albert Jeanneret -brother of Le Corbusier-, focuses on the work of four architects: Auguste Perret, Robert Mallet-Stevens and Le Corbusier-Pierre Jeanneret. Le Corbusier, who had known Pierre Chenal shortly before the project of these films saw the light, ends up collaborating with the director in the development of the script, maybe also responsible-unaccredited – of film editing.

The film Architecture de Aujourd’hui begin with this words:

Une auto… est une machine pour rouler.

Un avion… est une machine pour voler.

Une maison… est une machine à habiter1!

After these words, several realizations of Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret are shown -the Villa Stein in Garches (1926), the Villa Church at Ville- d’Avray (1927), the Villa Sayoye in Poissy (1928) and the Quartiers Fruges in Pessac (1925), near Bordeaux- inserting comments overprinted on a black screen. A very deliberate montage sets comparisons between the dark and oppressive traditional city and the new architecture proposed. The film ends with Le Corbusier’s explanation -using drawings and models- of the Plan Voisin, its ambitious project for the renovation and modernization of Paris.

1.  A car… is a machine to travel / A plane… is a machine for flying / a house… is a machine for living





Les bâtisseurs (1938)

Documentary film made in 1938 by Jean Epstein (Warsaw 1897, Paris 1953) as a commission of the French Union of Construction Workers (CGT) (Fédération nationale des travailleurs du Batiment des travaux publics et des Matériaux de construction) .

The film begins with a studied dialogue of two workers working on top of a scaffold located at the Cathedral of Chartres, analysing the evolution of his craft since the time of the cathedrals to the end of the ninth century. Next, images of modern buildings constructed under the auspices of the Communist Party are inserted -the Karl Marx School by André Lucart and the Boulogne-Billancourt Town hall by Tony Garnier, among others- and Interviews of Auguste Perret and Le Corbusier, exemplifying how a change in the construction and the way of living is not only necessary but possible, thanks to the new hygienist policy and the technical advances of the twentieth century. After a reconstruction of a hypothetical union meeting, where architects and construction professionals discuss their work and the future of the country, the film closes with allusive courage and effort images of construction professionals during their daily job.

Interspersing images of some of his buildings like his homeownership in the Immeuble Porte Molitor (1931-4), the Cité-refuge de l’Armee du Salut (1929) and the Pavillon Suisse de la Cité Internationale Universitaire (1930), all in Paris, Le Corbusier analyses in an about five minutes monologue how a new way of life is possible, drawing with confident stroke on a white board schemes of a residential building section designed in a modern way and a management plan for apartment blocks projected according to the planning principles he defended at that time.





Le Corbusier travaille (1949)

Le Corbusier meets Gabrielle Chéreau, a young lawyer and vice president of a private cooperative of social housing, during the construction of the Unité d’habitation in Nantes-Rezé. Three years later, during their collaboration in the construction of the Unité de Marseille, Le Corbusier request Chéreau to make a film about the work, as it is credited at the end of the film: Composé / par un ami / avec son amitié / pour son ami / Le Corbusier1.

The documentary is structured by the insertion of a few film titles in white letter on black background.

The first of them, “1951, Une Maison s’élève2” gives way to images of labourers working in an excavation and on the roof of the building. A quick panoramic camera reveals Le Corbusier arriving to the construction site to control the work. The title “Appel à la tradition, amour de la vérité3” inaugurates a new group of images, in which details of traditional or old buildings with new solutions tested at the Unité are compared: a fireplace in a rural tiled roof and the terrace of the building with its smoke evacuation; the stone gargoyles in a church and the concrete Gargoyle placed at the entrance of the building, or the Bell Tower of a church and the prismatic volume located on the terrace housing the elevators’ machinery.

In the section “Le Corbusier travaille; contact direct avec les hommes et les choses; recherche patient de la sincérité et de l’équilibre4” we see Le Corbusier controlling construction plans and documents, drawing with charcoal or pencil on them. Several 360° panoramic cameras show us at the same time views of Marseille from the terrace. In “Réflexion, amitié, dialogue5” Le Corbusier dialogues with some workers, while in “La nature est dans le bail6” a very intentioned montage of images recorded in natural surroundings with views of the Unité wrapped by the vegetation are shown. Finally, in “La Maison des hommes7” Gabriel Chéreau combines images of children looking to infinity with different views of the building

1. Composed / by a friend / with his friendship / to his friend / Le Corbusier.

2. 1951, a house grows.

3. A call to tradition; love for the truth.

4. Le Corbusier works; direct contact with men and things; patient research for honesty and balance.

5. Reflection, friendship, dialogue.

6. Nature is in the contract.

7. The house of men.







Le Corbusier, architecte de bonheur (Pierre Kast, 1956)

Pierre Kast (Paris 1920, 1984) presents in this documentary the work of Le Corbusier through the presence of the architect, his drawings and the pictures of his finished work.

The film begins with a critical reflexion on the urban structure of Paris and its monuments. Using a map of the city as a graphic support, the narrator concludes that the growth of tourism has shifted the necessary attention from the real problems of the city to the monuments devotion and postal letters that define them, completely forgetting the residential buildings. Next, the narrator speaks about how the visionary architecture of Louis Etienne Boullée and Claude Ledoux understood the special importance that must be given to the housing design, equivalent on public architecture, properly integrating the factory set workspaces. Finally, it is concluded that the inhabitants of depersonalized concrete cities have become the troglodytes of the new modern era.

After images of a neglected and dirty Paris, with beggars rummaging in bins and sad families living in shacks, the new masters of modern architecture -Gropius, Wright, Perret- are appealed to reflect seriously on this issue, giving entry to the name of Le Corbusier, a polemical architect subjected to strong critics that very often have impeded him to build, a fact by which can be said that: A la fin la guerre Le Corbusier c’est plus un influence qu’une œuvre1.

A collection of images from some of his major works give way to Le Corbusier himself, who develops his ideas through an interview in which he is asked about specific topics such as the unity between art and architecture, the new machinist civilization, the new human scale that provides the Modulor, his prophetic concept of Les Trois Établissements Humaines or the Ville Radieuse project. During the speech, it is emphasised the hygienist mouvement and the necessity to project according to proper sunlight, replacing the “noise” of the city with green spaces.

The last part of the documentary focuses on the Unité de Marseille, as a project in which finally Le Corbusier was able to carry out its new conception of modern living.

1. Afer the war Le Corbusier is more an influence than a work.





Les vacances de Le Corbusier (2015)

Film directed by Frédéric Lamasse under the technical supervision of Tim Benton. The documentary is structured by the three usual vacation spots of Le Corbusier and his wife Yvonne, combining photographs and films made by Le Corbusier himself, texts from letters to his mother or his friends, excerpts from his publications and current images of the places that once the couple resided.

Tim Benton presents the chapter Le Petit Piquey (Bassin d’Arcachon), place where Le Corbusier and Yvonne spent their holidays between 1926 and 1936. During this period, Le Corbusier writes about the importance that for him had the encounter with the nature, the ordinary people and the traditional buildings, also designing a House on the sand. In 1936 he began to use a film camera with the possibility of still photos. Tim Benton analyse how this visual work greatly influenced his artistic activity.

Daniel le Couédic, historian, relates in the second chapter how Le Corbusier’s stays in Britain (Plougrescant and Ploumanac’h, intermittent periods between 1920 and 1963) did not constitute only a holiday period. In fact, in his letters and publications Le Corbusier recognizes how this privileged coast allowed him to reflect on a certain relationship between art, architecture and nature, also causing the important encounter with the sculptor Joseph Savina.

Robert Rebutato, the son of the owner of l’ Étoile de mer restaurant, presents the third and final vacation spot of Le Corbusier and Yvonne, Roquebrune-Cap-Martin (1938-1965). The witness of Rebutato suppose a detailed chronicle both about the professional work carried out there by Le Corbusier and the daily life of the couple, from the initial period residing at Eileen Gray’s E-1027 house to the rupture of relations with Jean Badovici and the construction in 1952 of the Cabanon, attached to his father’s restaurant.


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