Category Archives: urban devastation

Corbusians versus the cockroaches

Dalrymple writes that Le Corbusier’s

casual but vicious totalitarianism, his inhumanity, his rage against humans, is evident. He felt the affection and concern for humans that most people feel for cockroaches.

Like Hitler, Le Corbusier

wanted to be an artist, and, as with Hitler, the world would have been a better place if he had achieved his ambition — one could have avoided his productions. The buildings that he and myriad acolytes have built scour the retina of the viewer.

The Corbusians are original in nothing but the new outrages they commit

A single Corbusian building

can devastate a landscape or destroy an ancient townscape, with a finality quite without appeal.

As for Le Corbusier’s city planning,

it was of a childish inhumanity and rank amateurism that would have been mildly amusing had it remained theoretical.

Dalrymple’s æsthetic detestation of Charles-Édouard Jeanneret

Le Corbusier, Dalrymple points out, was

  • personally unpleasant
  • a plagiarist
  • a liar
  • a cheat
  • a thief

His ideas were

gimcrack at best, and often far worse than merely bad.

A criminally bad architect

To commission a building from Le Corbusier

was to tie a ball and chain around one’s ankle, committing to Sisyphean bills for maintenance, as well as to a dishonest estimate of what the building would cost to build. He was technically ignorant and incompetent, laughably so. His roofs leaked, his materials deteriorated. He never grasped elementary principles of engineering.

A house by Le Corbusier

was not so much a machine for living in (one of his fatuous dicta) as a machine for generating costs and for moving out of. In the name of functionality, Le Corbusier built what did not work; in the name of mass production, everything he used had to be individually fashioned.

Having no human qualities himself,

and lacking all imagination, he did not even understand that shade in a hot climate was desirable, indeed essential.

Foulest of the fascist architects

Le Corbusier’s writing is

exhortatory and often ungrammatical, full of non-sequiturs and dubious assertions. He raves rather than argues; everything is written in an imperious take-it-or-leave-it mode.

Le Corbusier’s pronouncements, and the belief in them,

led to the construction of a thousand urban hells, worse in some ways than traditional slums because they were designed to eliminate spontaneous human contact. He hated the street, because it was messy, unofficial and unofficiated. He hated it as an obsessively houseproud woman hates dust.

Despite his horrible failings, Le Corbusier exerts

an unaccountable hold over architects and intellectuals. In France (but not only in France), to criticise him is to put oneself beyond the pale, and careers have been obstructed if not ruined by doing so. He seems to have a grip over minds, and those who are attracted to him are attracted also to totalitarian methods of keeping control over opinion. While hundreds of fawning books have been published about him, only a relative handful have taken a critical stance, and even those that provide ample evidence of his manifold defects and crimes refrain from drawing the obvious conclusion.

Walsall’s angry Bird

Angry Bird

A bitter Mike Bird

The Guardian reports that Mike Bird, head of Walsall Council,

yesterday led the backlash against art critic [sic] Theodore Dalrymple, who launched a vicious attack on the town, writing under a pseudonym in American art magazine [sic] New Criterion.

Dalrymple’s description of the town as

Ceaușescu’s Romania with fast food outlets

Screen Shot 2015-09-25 at 08.21.58

Hiding behind a pseudonym. Disgraceful travesty

has, the Guardian says,

proved too much for its outraged residents.

Dalrymple wrote:

It is possible that there are uglier towns in the world than Walsall, but if so I do not know them: and I consider myself better than averagely travelled. But while Walsall undoubtedly exists, it is difficult to know where precisely it begins and ends, because it is in the middle of one of the largest and most depressing contiguous areas of urban devastation in the world, the Black Country of the English Midlands. There is nowhere in the world where it is possible to travel such long distances without seeing anything grateful to the eye. To the hideousness of 19th-century industrialisation is added the desolation of 20th-century obsolescence.

Walsall's Pleck apartments

Walsall’s Pleck apartments

Mr Bird dismissed Dalrymple’s jibes as obvious nonsense, saying:

I have no time for people who remain anonymous [sic] and haven’t got the guts to stand up and be counted.

He also

Screen Shot 2015-09-25 at 09.32.49

Graceful Walsall architecture. Fast food available from outlet shown at left

last night branded Mr [sic] Dalrymple a narrow-minded individual who would be better off staying wherever he lives.

Walsall: Venice of the Black Country

Walsall: Venice of the Midlands