The University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture

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fall 2008

ARC 388R:
Demythologizing Le Corbusier: The "Esprit Nouveau" Period, Between Reason and Surrealism

Danilo Udovicki-Selb

This is an advanced graduate seminar with enrollment limited to 10 students.

Prerequisites: Completed History Surveys, and the professor’s permission for advanced undergraduates. Some knowledge of French may facilitate students’ persuites, but is not a requirement.

Course Description

Rarely an architect has been as influential and as controversial as Charles-Edouard Jeanneret, a.k.a. Le Corbusier. Derided and glorified throughout his career, he is still the subject of keen scholarly investigation and arresting fascination, if not of misunderstanding.

The aim of this seminar is to engage in a critical investigation of this architect’s combative period, from the time he undertook to convince his contemporaries of the necessity to destroy, for its own good, the larger part of Paris, and the moment when the Nazi invasion of France in 1940 almost accomplished his dream.

We will concentrate on a systematic reading of his writings and books in an effort to explain with some rigor among others the meaning he attributed to such fundamental concepts as the “Objet Type,” the “Ville Equation,” the “Unité d’Habitation,” “Machine à habiter” and the like.

Ultimately, the investigation may lead us to reconsider the rationalism usually attributed to his ideas, that is, the supposedly “modern” character of his architectural and urbanistic discourse, beyond the unquestionable artistic value of his achievements.


Weekly meetings for the discussion of material read, and student presentations in the second half of the semester.


Regular attendance, short critical papers and participation in discussions (1/3 of grade); Seminar presentations (1/3); A 25 to 30 pages research paper (1/3).