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Charles-Edouard Jeanneret, known as “Le Corbusier”, architect, theoretician, designer and crucial artist of the XXth century, also felt compelled by the Mezquita, by its structure and clear spaces. We could even speculate, on account of the signs he left us, that the Mezquita would have strongly influenced the way he thought of architecture. Le Corbusier visited Spain in several occasions. First in 1928, invited by the Students Residence in Madrid to give two conferences: “Architecture, Furniture and Works of Art” and “A House-a Palace”. He did not travel further south that time. It was not until 1930, during a tour of the Mediterranean coast along with Fernand Léger (the painter) his brother Albert and his cousin (and also partner at the time) Pierre Jeanneret, that he got to know Andalusia.

There is no documents of his stay in Córdoba. However, we do know that he stopped there on his way from Seville to Madrid in train. In Córdoba he bought a postcard, a picture of the forest of columns inside the Mezquita by Rafael Garzón (photographer from Granada who lived two feet away from the Mezquita). Le Corbusier collected postcards from the places he visited, as of today that collection can be seen exhibited in his foundation. But we will talk of it later on.

Le Corbusier found in Arabic architecture a steady source of inspiration. He would say so on the five points manifesto he gave in Ville Savoye, ideas such as the architectonic walk, space and time assembled together:

“L’architecture arabe nous donne un enseignement précieux. Elle s’apprécie à la marche, avec le pied; c’est en marchant, en se déplaçant que l’on voit se développer les ordonnances de l’architecture. C’est un principe contraire à la architecture baroque qui est conçue sur le papier, autour d’un point fixe théorique. Je préfère l’enseignement de l’architecture árabe.”

Let’s go, step by step, through the relationship that Le Corbusier had with the Mezquita.


First encounter. 1907

While studying in the Sainte Geneviève Library in 1907, a young Le Corbusier looked for sources with which build his architecture theory, it was there that he made two sketches referring to the Mezquita of Córdoba. He also noted the book he copied the drawings from: “Córdoba and Granada”. (Extrait de Cordoue et Grenade, page 111)


Garzón’s postcard 1930

Just like all the postcards in his collection, this one was also bought in situ. The value is in the scribbles and notes placed there by the architect. The pencil markings of the front highlight the specific area that will be included in his book  La Ville Radieuse (Le Corbusier, 1935, p.136). He wrote also in the back of the postcard, there he reflects on the lessons learned: “The vertical glorifies the horizontal. In Girona, Tarragona, Sevilla, Córdoba; everywhere, architecture is fully appreciated on foot, it is a true walk”. These images were bought at the spot, right after his visit, not just founded in a book, and are filled with emotions.


Some notes of 1955

This next note is truly revealing so I will linger here a bit. It is a page out of his sketch notebook from June of 1955. In the upper part a forest can be seen: the trunks of the trees are vertical lines and the bush containing the letter “A” crowns them. In a way a forest of columns holds all the above: matter (look this previous entry up for further information). Under the drawing a handwritten text by him, almost impossible to read, says: “line of trees abruptly sliced at the height of a cow= it creates a big area underneath/all of a sudden the Mezquita of Córdoba”.

But why are these notes about the Mezquita so important?

Le Corbusier simplified his architectural thesis into what is nowadays called “The five points”. He developed them while he was building one of his most emblematic construction: La Ville Savoye, designed in 1930, year of his visit to Andalusia. The five points were:


Free design of  the ground floor 

Pilars (reinforced concrete columns) 

Horizontal windows 

Roof gardens 

Free facades


How many of these five points can you identify with the Mezquita of Córdoba? Visit Ville Savoye to learn more about the influence that this monument had on Le Corbusier’s architectonic vision.



Wait! There is more!

Driven by curiosity, I decided to find out about the alias chosen by Charles-Edouard Jeanneret: Le Corbusier. And to my surprise I discovered that it very well may have been a corruption of the word “cordobés” (literally from Córdoba). It might depict me as a chauvinist but I am merely transcribing what a French etymology web site publishes. So, without further ado, the most famous architect of the XXth century called himself  “El Cordobés” (literally the one from Córdoba).

Here you will find in detail this strange an curious coincidence:
http://www.etymo-logique.com/ le-mot-du-jour/personnalites/ corbusier/

Research and texts by Luis Calvo

© Images are property of the Le Corbusier Foundation. ( http://www. fondationlecorbusier.fr/ )



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