Ernie Mellegers
"Don't start me talking, I'll tell you everything I know" (S.B. Williamson)
Turning Circle: Le Corbusier and the Parisian parking garage


This is part of a presentation given at the 64th Annual gathering of the Society of Achitectural Historians in New Orleans. Ernie was rewarded a fellowship.


Le Corbusiers fascination with the automobile is legendary. The sophisticated machine symbolizes the new machine age and he considers its fast evolution as a blue print for the route towards a contemporary architecture [– conceptually, technically, and esthetically]. Paraphrasing Le Corbusier: it is inappropriate that a [Paris] gentleman who owns an automobile sleeps in a bed from Brittany still handcrafted according to ancient traditions.1 The same goes for his house.

Being an early and keen follower of the cult of automobilism (a.k.a. motoring) he also has eye for the more pragmatic aspects when dealing with the automobile as a real physical object and its characteristics as a working machine. Automobile circulation is one of the phenomenons that make him drew the conclusion that “architecture is circulation”.2 So, from the 1920s he sets out defining a logical solution [link] for the interaction of architecture and the arrival and departure by automobile. With the role of the automobile all over the contemporary ‘modernist’ agenda Le Corbusier is the most successful in providing a successful [and legible/illustrative/representative] protocol for the above with the Villa Les Heures Claires (a.k.a. Villa Savoye, Poissy, 1928-32) as proof. However, his “slow and patient research” that results in the villa’s iconic circulation route underneath the pilotis is obscured by urban legends.3 The spectacular design-solution [feat] itself is reduced to a gimmick by the [reoccurring] attention for Madame Savoye’s refusal to back up her car and the turning circle of Le Corbusiers own car as origins. This calls for a revisit of [revisiting] some of the its sources and origins [- Le Corbusiers’ and others/car industry’ links to automotive arch-] in order to establish its historical context, its place among related projects and within Le Corbusiers body of work.