Centre Pompidou’s ‘Mesures de l’Homme’ takes the Modulor proportions system as the base for its exhibition on iconic modernist French architect Le Corbusier (1887-1965). Corbusier’s anthropometric scheme put the human figure at the centre of architecture, using the image of man with his arm raised (inspired by Da Vinci’s famous Vitruvian Man) as a visual method of uniting the incompatible imperial and metric scales and creating a universal unit of measurement that would become the basis of Corbusier’s buildings.
The show also puts architecture at the centre of a larger artistic philosophy – as well as the pure beauty of Corbu’s building designs, models and theoretical discourses (he was devoted to addressing issues of inner city housing, and hugely influential on urban planning), we are also shown his striking paintings, which move from elegant geometric images to a more figurative style that recalls Fernand Léger. As with his buildings and prototypes, the pieces bring home the influence that the great man has over our living environments even today.
Sadly, the search for a pertinent angle obscures some of the more uncomfortable elements of Corbusier’s legacy; his ‘rabbit cage’ designs for an Indian city and his fascist connections, which imbue his obsession with cleanliness, modernity and order. They're more than mere biographical detail, so it’s a shame to miss out on a full picture of Corbusier’s worldview.