Day 29 :: Le Corbusier

Le Corbusier’s only built project in South America – La Casa Curutchet in La Plata, Argentina (and the first drawing to come from its visit).

Today marked an important day for my trip, and my architectural education at large. When I was a somewhat inept younger student and moved to France for my third year in undergrad I had yet to tame the formal angst I had developed in my days as a graffiti writer. Parisian (and European) architectural culture with the help of one of the best professors I have ever had, Alejandro Lapunzina, quickly focused my undisciplined hand and trained me to see. An Argentinian native, he was the director of the American constituency of the ENSAV Academie and one of a handful Corbusier scholars in the world. As such, he was credited with ‘uncovering’ and documenting the story, construction, and final result of Maison Curutchet. Though I grew up playing amongst the ghost of Mies in the Southside of Chicago, the Corbusian School is largely responsible for my indoctrination to this profession. Two years later, I wrote my first extensive analytic-academic paper in graduate school for Peter Eisenman’s Visual Studies course on the very same house, in part hoping to keep the memory of my time in Paris alive. Today I was finally able to see it with my own eyes.

I woke up at around six and walked to the bus station to catch a ride to La Plata; the city is brilliantly planned. I don’t know how well it works, but it’s a perfectly designed grid intersected by a series of diagonals with parks at major intersections and in a belt that encloses the city. There are no street names (only numbers), no major anomalies – like a totally autonomous swath of Modernist urban planning executed perfectly. Anyways, I strangely spent more on the cab ride from the bus terminal to the house than I did to get to La Plata.

Because of the aforementioned historical significance of this house, it was the first thing I have come across that mustered, dare I say, elation. I knew it opened at 1030 and I was there at 10. I loitered around, ringing the buzzer until about noon, growing more desperate at the thought of not being able to go in. No one seemed to be home (its a cultural artifact now, no longer a house/clinic). I thought, “no way in hell am I turning around,” scoped out the area, routes of escape, possible surveillance, and covertly hopped the front railing.

Nothing better than illegal entry into a Corbusian building in broad daylight. Knowing the house like the back of my hand, I knew how to escape if need be. I toured the property, hopped my way out, had lunch and returned to Buenos Aires.

Tomorrow, meeting up with architect Tristan Dieguez.

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