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Glass, the Fundamental Material of Modern Architecture

In 1935, Le Corbusier wrote an article devoted to the role of glass in Modern Architecture. It was published in four parts in the Prague (Czechoslovakia) journal Tchéco-Verre (vol. 2, nos. 1–4), a trade journal dedicated to the manufacture and use of Glass and similar materials.

Originally published in French, Czech and German, the article is titled “Le Verre, matériau fondamental de l’architecture moderne” [“Sklo – základní hmota moderní architektury”] and draws heavily from previous pieces Le Corbusier had written about glass.

Less technical than his contemporary chapter on exact respiration published in La Ville radieuse (1935), “Glass” analyses a series of vitrified materials and of corbusian concepts regarding glazed façades: mur neutralisantmur employablerespiration exactemur diaphragmé, etc.

Despite the disappointing attempts of achieving an efficient pan-de-verre in Centrosoyus in Moscow and the Salvation Army hostel in Paris, this text marks an important moment of Le Corbusier’s struggle with the complexities of modern transparency.

It was translated into English in 2011 by Paul Stirton [associate professor at the Bard Graduate Center and editor of West 86th] and published in the vol. 19 no. 2 / Fall-Winter issue of West 86th, alongside with an introduction by Tim Benton [professor emeritus of art history at the Open University, UK]. Some excerpts of the English translation are available at the West 86th website while the complete text and the introduction can be found at JSTOR.