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Faculty of Engineering and Information Technology
University of Pécs
Faculty of Engineering and Information Technology


Lecturer: Prof Antonio Amado, Universidade da Coruña, Spain
Location: UP-FEIT (Pécs, Boszorkány Str. 2.); A-019
Date: 18:00; 26th March, 2018

(Based on the book Voiture Minimum. Le Corbusier and the Automobile)

          We can see three levels or scales in the relationship between the architect Le Corbusier and the automobile. In town planning, he could not conceive future and ideal cities without the car to connect the different parts of the cities, In architecture, the automobile was a clear reference for designing perfect houses. In design, he tried to create the most functional, popular and perfect car for all the people.
          In 1936, Le Corbusier took part in a contest called by the Societé de Ingenieurs of l’Automobile (SIA) of Paris with the design of a small automobile called Voiture Minimum. According to what he assured, he had made it eight years before. This project was continuously vindicated by its author as original and predecessor of other models such as the well-known Volkswagen, a car that became the most popular one in the world, with 23 million units manufactured.
          In spite of the fact that the Voiture Minimum was never mass-produced, it has been admired and deified by a great majority of art historians, industrial designers, architecture critics, architects, etc., and they have considered this little design of the architect a real precedent which engineers and automobiles manufacturers have based (or directly copied) their ideas on.
          On researching into the documentation and correspondence found in the archives, it has been possible to reconstruct the true history of this project and to state the effort and vain attempts made by Le Corbusier to get its patent. Also, it could be the opportunity of a spectacular business in addition to a great professional recognition.
          The book on which the lecture is based deepens on these subjects, contributing to demonstrate, with rigorous analyses, that Le Corbusier might have distorted the design dates of this automobile in order to attribute himself a merit that did not correspond to him at all. His proposal —presented out of date— was made when he already knew the designs previously presented to the contest by other contestants.
          The Foundation Le Corbusier has always considered 1928 as the original date, based on a sketch that appears on the back of a postal letter addressed to the architect, with a handwritten annotation in which the architect reaffirms his authorship. Nevertheless, at the end of 2007, the author of the book, tracking the origin of the mysterious envelope and after a series of gradual “detective work” investigations located the sender of this letter, a septuagenarian Swiss man who had sent it in... 1960. It demonstrates that the sketch, supposedly drawn by Le Corbusier, does not correspond —far from it— to the pretended date, but to 32 years later...