Throwing light on the recent controversy surrounding best-known 20th-century Swiss-French architect Le Corbusier’s alleged fascist leanings, the Swiss Ambassador to India Linus von Castelmur said on Friday in Ahmedabad, that Corbusier was “an apolitical person”, “who did not fall prey to totalitarian mermaids singing”.
Castelmur was in town to kick off a 3-week long photo exhibition of Corbusier hosted by the Swiss Embassy commemorating the architects 50th death anniversary at city-based Mill Owners’ Association building also called ATMA, that was built by the former. Renowned city-based architect BV Doshi who has a long association with Corbusier having worked with him in Paris, Ahmedabad and in Chandigarh, was conspicuous by his absence at the event, even as his name figured in the invitation of the event.
Calling Corbusier, a ‘citizen of the world’, the Swiss diplomat while responding to a query raised at the event on the raging controversy on Corbusier’s life said, “The other recurring question is was Le Corbusier a sympathiser of totalitarian and ultimately barbaric systems? To answer this question, taking into account the historic context, we should refrain from indulging in essentially historical judgements. Le Corbusier was a man of his times which were marked by two world wars, disruptive technological and social change on the one hand and strong ideological polarities and fractures on the other. Led by humanist values of reform, he was eager to bring about a better quality of life and social economic function in cities, factories and recreational facilities.”
He further added, “Being fundamentally an apolitical person, he saw himself as a builder and designer who wanted to change the world through planning and construction within a given context. At times he could behave opportunistically and unselectively as shown by his attempts to ingratiate himself with the Vichy Germans during the Second World War. However, according to available research he didn’t make or collaborate in his architectural practice in inhumane project nor fall prey to totalitarian mermaids singing.”
Calling Corbusier a son of his time at the event, Castelmur spoke about Corbusier’s origins in Switzerland and his interest in urban experiments, “be it in Communist Russia, Fascist Italy, France, Germany both during the Vichy Republic and during national socialism or capitalist America and post colonial India”.
Speaking on the sidelines of the event, the Swiss diplomat said that he would be meeting with Gujarat Chamber of Commerce & Industry(GCCI) officials and later visiting Rajkot on the 29th December to take forward a bilateral collaboration involving four cities of India and the Swiss Government in the domain of ‘smart and green cities’, of which Rajkot is one.