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11.5.05

Le Corbusier's Chapel at Fifty

Le Corbusier, Notre-Dame-du-Haut, RonchampAccording to an article (La chapelle de Ronchamp a cinquante ans, May 10) from France 2 Cultural News, Notre-Dame-du-Haut, the icon of postmodernism that Le Corbusier built in the mountain village of Ronchamp, France, is 50 years old this year (my translation):

Le Corbusier, a staunch atheist, at first had refused to accept the commission to rebuild the chapel, destroyed during World War II. But a visit to the site and the promise of total artistic freedom in designing the building ultimately convinced him, says Jean-François Mathay, whose father, François, was one of the project's promoters. It was controversial, since a petition against Le Corbusier's chapel went all the way to the Vatican. The work began four years later, with the architect hoping to calm the polemical battle.

"In a region with a fairly traditional mindset, Le Corbusier's chapel was received rather poorly. But the residents of Ronchamp today understand that they have a treasure high up on their hill," says Stéphane Potelle, a historian specializing in Le Corbusier, whom he calls "an agnostic architect who was steeped in spirituality." The Ronchamp chapel was the first of three religious buildings designed by the architect. It's "mind-blowing for art historians because it is not of a piece with the rest of Le Corbusier's career," says the historian. "We find here an interest in space, a control of light, the use of concrete characteristic of his work, but also an incredibly personal aspect, surely tied to the proximity of the site to the town of La Chaux de Fonds, in Switzerland, where Le Corbusier grew up with his mother, Marie, whom he venerated and whose first name is attached to the Marian focus of the chapel.
The chapel was consecrated on June 25, 1955. The schedule of 27 related cultural events, continuing through October 15, includes dance, theater, concerts, exhibits, pilgrimages, and meetings. You can take your own online tour of the chapel, or look at pictures of the interior and exterior.

UPDATE:
At fifty years old, Le Corbusier's building still packs quite a punch, as you can see in the impassioned reactions to this post:Yes, Fred, I do like this building. I think. I'm only judging from the pictures, since I have not actually been there. The "pockmarking" is not really about what it looks like from the outside: they are the result of what Le Corbusier was doing to control the entrance of natural light into the interior.

UPDATE:
French blogger Lunettes Rouges left a good comment about the plan to finish another of Le Corbusier's churches, in Firminy. I wrote about this way back in September 2003.

2 comments:

Allan Sheldon said...

My wife and I visited Notre Dame du Haut in April of this year (20050, the culmination of a dream I have had since learning about the chapel many years ago in university. There is no doubt that Le Corbusier's conception met all of my fondest hopes, and to have spent two days there during the 50th anniversary was wonderful. Allan Sheldon, Canada

ibrahim abu touq said...

one of the timeless buildings at all centuries