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Building the future

A quote from Le Corbusier that proves the man’s intelligence: “The core of our old cities, with their domes and cathedrals, must be broken up and skyscrapers put in their place.” (Cited in A Humane Economy, 85.) Say what you like, he knew his stuff. The urban environment is the setting for the rituals that constitute our public life. The goal of modernity is to replace the familial, civic and religious core of that common life with technologically rational processes embodied in world markets and neutral transnational bureaucracies. Once you grasp that point the need to replace domes and cathedrals with skyscrapers is obvious.

That, in fact, is why Corbu was recognized by all the masters of the modern world as their common ally. When he died in 1965, the Soviets observed that “modern architecture has lost its greatest master,” while President Johnson commented that “his influence was universal and his works are invested with a permanent quality possessed by those of very few artists in our history.” He wanted to turn everything into a rational machine, and a rational machine is something that can be fully controlled from above. If you’re Leonid Brezhnev or Lyndon Johnson, what’s not to like?