27 April 2006 What To See
Le Corbusier’s Notre Dame Du Haut in Ronchamp, France, is the most important building on the planet. Le Corbusier was and still is the Architects Architect. Unlike say Frank Lloyd Wright, he was uncompromised by decoration, and unlike say, Mies van der Rohe his buildings had a paramount humanity. He was the star.
This is not a common view. In fact he is more likely to be blamed for “inhumane” concrete high rise public housing, much of it in London. We recently returned to Roehampton where such a high rise development designed Le Corbusier is still undeserving of this criticism.
I had meant to visit Ronchamp for thirty years or so. There is usually a significant passage of time between the desire to visit a place and the realisation of that desire. I was able to persuade Mrs Monk to make the considerable journey, by pretending to visit the French Champagne Country, which is about half way there from Calais.
Mrs Monk complained for most of the journey in the normal way.
“Where on earth are you taking me?” she would say.
“I am hungry? When do we eat?” All the usual questions
“This better be good?” All the usual threats
When we finally made our way to this small working class mining town close to the Swiss border. At first sight of LeCorb’s masterpiece, Mrs Monk became overwhelmed, and joyous tears welled, and from amongst the nearby trees, and located by LeCorb, the chapel bells rang out as if on cue. Serious blabbing ensued.
Le Corbusier was, ironically and controversially, a committed atheist.