We made a pilgrimage to Le Corbusier’s Carpenter Center in Cambridge, MA recently. This might have been the third time that I was there. School had not started yet so we were able to walk thru the entire building without feeling like we were imposing.
I just think that this building is almost beyond belief. The sheer plasticity of the design. The shaping and molding. The pushing and pulling. The lifting. The penetration. Completely free. And you can see how this building was designed more like one of his paintings.
And, I’m sorry, but it really would be a sin to sit on the sidewalk and draw this building representationally. This building is so dynamic with so many relationships to understand that a mere representation cannot be justified. If you sat on the sidewalk with your drawing pad and drew like a camera, the vast majority of the machinations of this building would be lost to you.
The building has been up for 50 years now, and it is holding up well. The concrete must have been done right. The glazing seems to be original. While the interior shows some wear and tear, it is normal for what an art school building is typically subjected to.
While in the studios, the lights were switched off. So for 3 PM on a winter afternoon, the amount of light in the southern studios was decent. I wonder how the light is different on say a summer day with the sun very high.
When I say the building is beyond belief, there really is no comparison between it and other campus buildings. The nearby Paul Rudolph icon does not compare. This was the only building that was completely Le Corbusier’s built in the US. And he never saw it. Although he was invited to the opening, his declining health made the trip from France impossible.
If you can’t tell by now, I reallly am a Le Corbusier fan. We touched on Corb’s travels thru Turkey, for example, here. And we have looked at La Tourette , Villa Savoie, Chandigarh, as well as Ronchamp. Other than Ronchamp, the Carpenter Center is the only other Corb building that I have seen. Obviously I need to remedy that.
As you know by now, I firmly believe that the representational way we are taught to draw is a travesty. And to make a representational sketch of this building so as to “understand” it is a joke. An excerpt from the current Wikipedia entry for this building states “…the completed building presents itself as a compact, roughly cylindrical mass…” No it doesn’t. That statement right there proves that even most people who are writing about the building really don’t know how it works. And how could they, if they don’t draw to understand.
Call it what you will. If easier, you can call it mechanistic drawing understanding. Or you can call it axonometric overlay relationships. Maybe if you come up with your own terms you will find it easier to make this transition. The point is stop drawing representationally. Instead, do a drawing that gets at how it works.