AA Library: Le Corbusier et Saint-Dié
Eleanor Gawne, Sept. 2015

The plan for the reconstruction of Saint-Dié was Le Corbusier’s first post-war project, based on his ideas in the Radiant City. The city, sited in Lorraine in north-eastern France, had been almost completely burned to the ground by retreating German troops in 1944. Le Corbusier was appointed architect-counsel (as opposed to chief architect) in 1945 and drew up plans which were submitted to the Ministry. Amongst his radical ideas was the idea of housing the population of Saint-Dié in eight unités d’habitation, as a way of bringing views of the Vosges mountains to everyone. His city centre had a large pedestrian plaza where all administrative and cultural buildings would be located. The tallest building was an administrative tower, built to house all government functions. The central area was surrounded by concentric zones including a commercial district and industrial complex in green settings. There was alot of resistance to Le Corbusier’s plans and other architects were invited to produce reconstruction plans, based on historical precedent. Despite travelling to the USA to get support in late 1945/early 1946 (from Philip Johnson amongst others), Le Corbusier’s plan was ultimately rejected. Although his town plan was not built (Jacques Andre’s plan was built instead), Corb was commissioned to design a new millinery factory for Claude et Duval, owned by one of his few city supporters, Jean Jacques Duval.

The Library has recently augmented its collection of books on Le Corbusier with an out-of-print exhibition catalogue published to accompany the exhibition ‘Le Corbusier et St. Dié’ held at the Musée municipal de Saint-Dié-des Vosges, from 14 October-10 November 1987.

The catalogue, in French, describes the background of the project and reproduces correspondence and drawings of the scheme. It comes up-to-date by including some testimonies about the factory Claude et Duval written by a contemporary architectural professor and practitioners.