This Thursday I will be doing a brief talk at The Architecture Foundation’s Annual Sponsor Event. The Architecture Foundation run the Parker Fellowship (previously the Eric Parker Travelling Scholarship, as it was known when I received the prize) and year after year go to the huge and wonderful effort of funding a travelling scholarship for one Newcastle University architecture student who shows great potential, interest and dedication. This award is about seeing, thinking and drawing, and literally changes lives. It is the most beautiful initiative, created in memory of Eric Parker, once a great influence in the Architecture Faculty of Newcastle University.
So, in 2010 I spent six months touring the Europoean architecture of Le Corbusier, chronologically visiting and documenting each of his works (with only a few missed exceptions) from the years 1910 – 1955. I will do an in depth blog post about this experience in the future, but for this Thursday’s talk I thought it might be nice to focus on his beautiful building at Ronchamp, in remote, eastern France, Notre Dame du Haut.
Whilst I was in many ways underwhelmed by this building at the time (I can’t say why, to be honest), over the years my great appreciation for its strong, lasting impression has grown. I can’t help but think of it when I consider the great architecture of the world, and know that it really is a timeless and magnificent space for the people. Le Corbusier was not a religious man, and often refused comissions for the design of religious architecture, however for some reason this project appealed to him – perhaps in some ways it was about timing – it was somewhat late in his career and in many ways Corb’s focus around this time was shifting from the more stingent, functionalist architecture that it once was, to the more supple, whole and sculptural beast that it fully developed into in the latter part of his career. Then again, it could have been the amazing site, naturally contemplative and meditative, sited atop a small, but steep hill which forms the backdrop of the tiny town of Ronchamp itself. And then perhaps it was the opportunity to replace something that had been lost from France during some of the country’s darkest times, with a new and truly Modern piece of architecture which accurately reflected the cultural condition of France at the time, as encouraged by the chapel’s forward thinking father Marie-Alain Couturier. Whatever it was, it did spell the beginning of a new era for Le Corbusier, and propelled him into a new world of architecture, which I am ever thankful he decided to venture into!
My talk will center around the drawings that I did whilst at this fabulous chapel, which I have included here for your interest. If you are ever in France, go out of your way to get to Ronchamp, stay at the lovely and hospitable Clos Fleuri Bed & Breakfast, and spend a morning swimming in the sumptuous warmth of one of Le Corbusier’s greatest works.