Architects on Architecture: Koolhaas and Le Corbusier

Jessica Backus
Aug 27, 2013 9:54PM

In his now seminal treatise on 20th century urbanism, Delirious Manhattan published in 1978, architect Rem Koolhaas teased out the underlying ideology not only of Manhattan's grid, but also of more general trends in modern architecture. Remarking that one of Le Corbusier's favorite construction methods was concrete, Koolhaas goes on to describe the poetics of this material:

Initially malleable at first, then suddenly hard as rock, reinforced concrete can objectify vacuity and fullness with equal ease: it is the architects' plastic. (It is no coincidence that each reinforced-concrete building site, with its mad clutter of shuttering, resembles Noah's project: an inexplicably land-locked shipyard.)

What Noah needed was reinforced concrete.

What Modern Architecture needs is a flood.

Koolhaas does not mention this iconic pilgrimage chapel at Ronchamp, France, but the implication is clear. The billowing concrete roof of this most extreme of Le Corbusier's buildings resembles an ark, itself a symbol of Noah and the Christian covenant with God. 

Jessica Backus