Architecture and the body. A rich and potent topic, one ringing with the need to engage all of our senses. It is the existential essence of human construction and should be the core of meaning in all architecture.
Andre Wogenscky was a trusted lieutenant of Le Corbusier, whose treatise and scalar symbol, Le Modulor, remains the only modernist icon which privileges the human body over architecture. Visiting Le Corbusier’s buildings leaves no doubt about his fundamental humanist vision. His Unite d’Habitation in Marseilles is a superb and coherent assemblage of living practices – housing, offices, childcare, leisure, eating, drinking, swimming and shopping – quite opposite to the alienating developer and council flats which vainly mimic his model worldwide. But we should also reflect on the humanising influence of Charlotte Perriand – her essential contributions in colour, ablutions, kitchens and furniture added a layer of intimacy to all of Le Corbusier’s work, which is universal and elevates it to greatness.
Rem Koolhaus in his 2014 Venice exhibition chose to highlight the intensity of belief that existed about the good of the modernist project, particularly after the horror of World War II and the social need for reconstruction. The modern project was based on the sanitisation of space to provide new places to clean and house the human body. New typologies of hospitals, schools, cinemas and housing provided the fundamental requirements of light, ventilation, sanitation, security and control, but lost the traditional emotions of touch, hearth, threshold, custom and tradition.
The individual was treated as secondary to the modernist social project of sanitation and control.
In Australia, Paul Memmott, recently awarded the 2015 Neville Quarry Architectural Education Prize by the Institute, has documented the beautiful and sustainable patterns of Indigenous occupancy of Australia, settlements that responded to climate and place with ingenious simplicity. Contemporary architects, Glenn Murcutt, Peter Stutchbury, Brit Andresen and Sean Godsell have developed their patterns from this gentle, continual occupancy of the land, facilitating a connection between the body, the mind and the landscape.