Monday, November 28, 2005

Corb Blamed for French Riots

Christopher Caldwell of The New York Times Magazine floats this summery of housing approaches in suburban Europe, and how it's related to the recent riots. He does well to link the stratagies to the political machines defending them, in a quick read...
La crise des banlieues turns out to be an ambiguous phrase. Is there a problem in France's suburbs or with France's suburbs? For Schäuble, it's the buildings. For the boosters of Marseille, it's where you put them.

The Swiss architect Le Corbusier, as Francophobes have been more than ready to explain, bears some of the blame for both. His designs inspired many of the suburbs where the riots of October and November began. In fact, he inspired the very practice of housing the urban poor by building up instead of out. Soaring apartments, he thought, would finally give sunlight and fresh air to city laborers, who had been trapped in narrow and fetid back streets since the dawn of urbanization. But high-rise apartments mixed badly with something poor communities generate in profusion: groups of young, armed, desperate males. Anyone who could control the elevator bank (and, when that became too terrifying to use, the graffiti-covered stairwells) could hold hundreds of families ransom.
... DYWSC raises this recent piece of architectural journalism high over this one, because it presents both sides of a rather complicated story. The Zaha story is merely praise, without much consideration to the cost and meaning of her building. She may diserve the praise, and the building may look sexy as hell, but still: this is why we all should need a little more coffee.


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