Antonio Amado Lorenzo
The MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 2011, English
Nonfiction, Product/Industrial Design
9 x 9 inches, hardcover, 368 pages, 180 color and 205 black-and-white illustrations
ISBN: 9780262015363
Suggested Retail Price: $49.95

From the Publisher. Le Corbusier, who famously called a house "a machine for living," was fascinated—even obsessed—by another kind of machine, the automobile. His writings were strewn with references to autos: "If houses were built industrially, mass-produced like chassis, an aesthetic would be formed with surprising precision," he wrote in Toward an Architecture (1923). In his "white phase" of the twenties and thirties, he insisted that his buildings be photographed with a modern automobile in the foreground. Le Corbusier moved beyond the theoretical in 1936, entering (with his cousin Pierre Jeanneret) an automobile design competition, submitting plans for "a minimalist vehicle for maximum functionality," the Voiture Minimum. Despite Le Corbusier’s energetic promotion of his design to several important automakers, the Voiture Minimum was never mass-produced. This book is the first to tell the full and true story of Le Corbusier’s adventure in automobile design.

Architect Antonio Amado describes the project in detail, linking it to Le Corbusier’s architectural work, to Modernist utopian urban visions, and to the automobile design projects of other architects including Walter Gropius and Frank Lloyd Wright. He provides abundant images, including many pages of Le Corbusier’s sketches and plans for the Voiture Minimum, and reprints Le Corbusier’s letters seeking a manufacturer. Le Corbusier’s design is often said to have been the inspiration for Volkswagen’s enduringly popular Beetle; the architect himself implied as much, claiming that his design for the 1936 competition originated in 1928, before the Beetle. Amado, after extensive examination of archival and source materials, disproves this; the influence may have gone the other way.

Although many critics considered the Voiture Minimum a footnote in Le Corbusier’s career, Le Corbusier did not. This book, lavishly illustrated and exhaustively documented, restores Le Corbusier’s automobile to the main text.

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Phil Patton

All students of architecture know that Le Corbusier’s vision of the city was shaped by the automobile. Many know that he devoted time to designing a basic automobile, the “voiture minimum.” But few are aware just how obsessed the architect was with automobiles. He drove his own, and worked out a good price with a Paris dealer, explains Antonio Amado, an architect who has packed his book full of every bit of information on Le Corbusier and the car and supplied a miniature history of auto design in Europe in the twenties and thirties as well. Le Corbusier was also a car buff, posing his favorites, Voisins, in front of houses when they were photographed for architectural journals. (Developed by an aviation pioneer, an example of the Voisin this year won the top prize for collector cars at the Pebble Beach concours.) As shrewd reviewers have noted, when he spoke of a machine for living, Amado argues, it was usually an automobile Le Corbusier was thinking of.

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