A Quantitative Comparison between the Formal Complexity of Le Corbusier’s Pre-Modern (1905-1912) and Early Modern (1922-1928) Architecture

By Josephine Vaughan and Michael J. Ostwald.

Published by The Design Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Architectural historians are divided over the question of whether or not Le Corbusier’s early, Arts and Crafts (or Art Nouveau) style chalet designs are formally related to his later, more famous, designs for Modernist villas. While there are multiple stylistic differences between Le Corbusier’s early and later works, the question remains, are the houses really so different in terms of their formal complexity? The present paper uses computational means to mathematically answer this question for the first time.
Recent research has shown that computational methods can be used to determine a series of quantitative results for the visual complexity of five of Le Corbusier’s Modernist houses (completed between 1922 and 1928). In this paper five of Le Corbusier’s early, pre-Modern house designs (completed between 1905 and 1912) are analysed using the same computational method. With these two sets of data available for testing, a detailed comparison of the mathematical difference between the works is constructed. Ultimately, this paper concludes that there are strong correlations between the formal complexity and design strategies found in these ten canonical works.

Keywords: Computational Analysis, Visual Complexity, Le Corbusier, Design Assessment

Design Principles and Practices: An International Journal, Volume 3, Issue 4, pp.359-372. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.471MB).

Josephine Vaughan

Research Assistant, School of Architecture and Built Environment, The University of Newcastle, Newcastle, NSW, Australia

Josephine Vaughan is a research higher degree candidate at the University of Newcastle, where she is also a member of the architectural computing research group. Her postgraduate studies are focused on the fractal dimensions of buildings. Josephine’s architectural designs have been exhibited and installed regionally and nationally.

Prof. Michael J. Ostwald

NSW, Australia

Dr. Michael J. Ostwald is Professor and Dean of Architecture at the University of Newcastle, Australia. He is a Visiting Fellow at SIAL and a Professorial Research Fellow at Victoria University Wellington. He has a PhD in architectural philosophy and a higher doctorate (DSc) in the mathematics of design. He is co-editor of the journal Architectural Design Research and on the editorial boards of Architectural Theory Review and the Nexus Network Journal. His recent books include The Architecture of the New Baroque (2006), Homo Faber:Modelling Design (2007) and Residue: Architecture as a Condition of Loss (2007).

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