Le Corbusier’s Venice Hospital: a genealogy of individual and collective intelligence in his architecture

I will be speaking at the Architectural Space and Society Centre at Birkbeck

9 November 6pm
Keynes Library, 43 Gordon Square, Birkbeck

Le Corbusier’s Venice Hospital: a genealogy of individual and collective intelligence in his architecture
Sophia Psarra, Bartlett School of Architecture


Leveraging new materials and means of production, architects, planners and corporate powers in the last two centuries created the paradigms of Modernism and Fordism, re-structuring buildings and cities through the contradictory models of the artist re-imagining spaces ex-nihilo, and the assembly worker enacting processes of mass production and social reform. The first model supports the view of the creative designer relying on the inner resources of the imagination. The second paradigm is blind to the designer’s intelligence reinforces the social, functional, economic and environmental processes of production.

Inspired by Venice in the 1960s Le Corbusier designed a hospital to be located in the run down area of San Giobbe in Venice. Responding to scientific ideas about health and in striking contrast to his early-twentieth century visions of a clean slate approach, the archetypal modernist proposed a radical new model, rethinking architecture and the city as adaptable urban environments.

The Hospital has been described as a unique work in Le Corbusier’s oeuvre. Yet, seen in the context of his other architectural designs, it reveals a consistent genealogy of ideas, from the early 20th century approach of the architect-artist working ex-nihilo to the transcendental principles of classicism, and finally, the post-war cybernetic research of the 1950s and 1960s on buildings and cities as networks. More importantly, it proposes a new model looking at the interaction between individual and collective intelligence for sourcing architectural form.

In this presentation, I will argue that as the last challenge in Le Corbusier’s work, the Hospital is closely linked to the diversification of models we need in order to guide the critical development of the new urban ideal for sentient cities, architecture and architectural pedagogy.


Venice Hospital_Plans_exploded

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