1st Edition

Le Corbusier’s Practical Aesthetic of the City The treatise ‘La Construction des villes’ of 1910/11

By Christoph Schnoor Copyright 2020
    536 Pages 212 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    536 Pages 212 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Set within an insightful analysis, this book describes the genesis, ideas and ideologies which influenced La Construction des Villes by Le Corbusier. This volume makes the important theoretical work available for the first time in English, offering an interpretation as to how much and in what way his ‘essai’ may have influenced his later work.

    Dealing with questions of aesthetic urbanism, La Construction des Villes shows Le Corbusier’s intellectual influences in the field of urbanism. Discontent that the script was not sufficiently avant-garde, he abandoned it soon after it was written in the early 20th century. It was only in the late 1970s that American historian H. Allen Brooks discovered 250 pages of the forgotten manuscript in Switzerland. The author of this book, Christoph Schnoor, later discovered another 350 handwritten pages of the original manuscript, consisting of extracts, chapters, and bibliographic notes. This splendid find enabled the re-establishment of the manuscript as Le Corbusier had abandoned it, unfinished, in the spring of 1911.

    This volume offers an unbiased extension of our knowledge of Le Corbusier and his work. In addition, it reminds us of the urban design innovations of the very early 20th century which can still serve as valuable lessons for a new understanding of contemporary urban design.

    Discovering the aesthetics of the city


    Chapter 1: Jeanneret’s reading and work on the Manuscript

    The task: a study of urban design

    Taking stock of the material

    The work in its latest form: Jeanneret’s final table of contents

    To Munich

    Mid-April 1910: Approaching the material

    An attempt to date Cahier City II Bridges

    Jeanneret studies Sitte’s Städtebau

    Gathering material in Munich’s libraries

    The urban design exhibition in Berlin

    What would be the scope of the study?

    Some bibliographical details

    La Chaux-de-Fonds: Editing the Manuscript

    One final month in Munich: Green space in the city

    Cemeteries and garden cities

    At Behrens’ studio: No time for urban design

    Spring 1911: Big plans and a Laugier excerpt


    Chapter 2: The material in detail

    Proposition and General Considerations

    Proposition – the collective and the universal genius

    General Considerations – the situation of urban design circa 1900

    Les Eléments constitutifs de la ville – The Elements of the City


    Des Chésaux – On Blocks

    Des Rues – On Streets

    Des Places – On Squares

    On Squares in Cahiers C.7 and C.8

    Murs de clôture – On Enclosing Walls

    The unfinished chapters: Green elements in the city

    Des Ponts – On Bridges

    Des Arbres – Trees as sculptural elements in the city

    Des Jardins et Parcs – On Gardens and parks

    Des Cimetières – The architectural possibilities of cemeteries

    Des Cités-jardins – On Garden cities

    Des moyens possibles – On Possible Strategies

    Application Critique – La Chaux-de-Fonds: A case study


    Chapter 3: 1911 to 1925 – Towards urbanism

    The Laugier excerpt as a turning point

    Why was La Construction des villes not published?

    Urban aesthetics versus the Voyage d’Orient

    France ou Allemagne? Reasons against publication

    La Construction des villes and Urbanisme


    Curved or straight streets revisited

    The residential block

    Public spaces in the city


    Chapter 4: Conclusion

    The malerisch versus the monumental

    Urban space

    Beauté and utilité

    The architectural garden and the garden city

    A somewhat stupid book, "un livre un peu idiot"?


    La Construction des villes: The manuscript


    Part I, Chap. I General Considerations

    §1 Purpose of this study

    §2 General Principles

    §3 The present state of the debate

    §4 A fundamental present-day error


    Part I, Chap. II The Elements of the City

    §1 Introduction

    §2 On Blocks

    §3 On Streets

    §4 On Squares, I

    §4 On Squares, II

    §5 On Enclosing Walls

    §6 Material for On Bridges

    §7 Material for On Trees

    §8 Material for On Gardens and Parks

    §9 Material for On Cemeteries

    §10 Material for On Garden Cities


    Part I, Chap. III On Possible Strategies


    Part II Critical Application: La Chaux-de-Fonds


    Appendix: Material for Critical Application, II


    Materials: Notebooks

    Notebook C.2 – City II Bridges

    Cahier C.3 – Cities III (Materials for Blocks, Streets and Squares)

    Cahier C.11 – City J Theodor Fischer (Berlin, October 1910)

    Cahier C.12 – Roland Fréart (Berlin, October 1910)

    Cahier C.13 – Laugier (Berlin, January to March 1911)



    Tables of contents, overviews

    Overview table of contents for ‘On Squares’


    Bibliographic Notes

    Cahiers: Title Pages



    List of illustrations


    Dr Christoph Schnoor is Associate Professor at Unitec Institute of Technology in Auckland, New Zealand. Having published extensively on modernist architecture, with specific focus on the work of Le Corbusier and architectural critique by Colin Rowe, his intellectual biography on Austrian émigré architect Ernst Plischke has been published in 2020.

    Translated by Kim Sanderson.