The Antisocial Urbanism of Le Corbusier

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The Antisocial Urbanism of Le Corbusier

Antisocialism in Social Cities


Social versus Antisocial Cities

  1. Introduction
  1. What is Socializing?
  1. Various types of Socializing
  2. Stages of Socializing by Richard Moreland and John Levine
  1. Le Corbusier vision toward cities and criticism
  1. Body
  1. Charles Fourier and Le Corbusier vision by Peter Serenyi
  1. Argument of Charles Fourier
  2. Fourier plan in “The Social Destiny of Man”
  1. Humans as Social Beings
  1. Cartesian method Vs. John Locke
  2. Georg Simmel: Individuality and Social forms
  3. Blaise Pascal and Le Corbusier: pointless human relation ships
  1. Antisocial aspiration and criminality
  1. Albert Camus: Public and private violence
  1. Conclusion
  1. Antisocial City effect on people life
  1. Lewis Mumford: political and cultural association as main themes in the city
  2. Jane Jacobs: “people need other people”
  1. Sociable city and its citizens: How could a city survive with antisocial symptoms?

Social versus Antisocial Cities

Socialization is the procedure through which a person acquires to bond to an assembly or culture and act in a way accepted and recognized by this group or society. Referring to most social experts, socialization basically expresses the entire method ofcultureduring thelifesequence and is a principal inspiration on theperformance, views, culture and activities of all ages. (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2014) Richard Moreland and John Levine (1982), proposed a typical method of an assembly socialization which rely on the statement that people as well as groups modify their views, estimations and behavior when interacting through time. Moreland and Levine propose that an expected categorization of phases which arises to allow for an individual to change when being part of a group. They differentiated five steps of socialization which indicate this change which are: inquiry, socialization, conservation, resocialization, and memory. Passing by each level, people assess each other through which an evolution or reduction in assurance to socialization can be reached.

Why cities need socialization while being a positive thing? Why do we adopt it as a beneficial concept through which people are involved in urban diversity and prospects? Is it essential for citizens to mingle in their city? These enquiries usually examined explain the fact that people are not sure about the presence of socialization in their city. Additionally, people cannot deny the negative impact on cities that have an unorganized social life that should be escaped. By examining the main visualization of Le Corbusier toward the city, these questions will be more elucidated. In his Plan Voisin from 1925, his vision involved the proposition of demolishing the center of Paris and replace it by towers following a certain grid without taking into consideration the existing surrounding and its historical importance in that area of the city. This image is considered a utopic vision shaped to unify man with a well-organized environment following certain rules and guidelines. However, by doing so, he isolated pedestrian flow and routes from the roads and streets by overvaluing the automobile as main tool of movement in the city. This vision is no more favoring the social contact between the city users who are losing the concept of socialization by focusing more on the uniformities of the modern city more than the common bonds and their limits.

Seventy years of restated criticism of Le Corbusier has been revealed concerning socializing since he forgot that cities occur to enhance this process. Le Corbusier was considered as a negligent and mad person as described by some reporters. Charles Fourier, the nineteenth-century ideal philosopher was considered also as an extremely hopeless, single, rootless person while being compared to Le Corbusier by Peter Serenyi. As a consequence, they both detested human society. Actually, the main argument presented by Charles Fourier is that social interaction favor the aggressive behavior among people since they are motivated by their antisocial passions so if they are obliged to live together they tend to drift apart (Serenyi, 1967). Fourier suggested in his book “The Social Destiny of Man” (1808), to split the society into parts that encompass sixteen hundred residents per piece where each one live in studios, while inhabiting a large house that he named a “phalanstery.” The outcome of each piece is monitored by a specialized manager that he named the “areopagus,” who is also responsible for the social relations among the inmates. Subsequently, people will start to kill each other after the inmates be isolated to new phalansteries. Serenyi claims that this way of planning a society as the plan of Fourier’s and the urban designs of Le Corbusier is definitely a mad way of thinking about society (Serenyi, 1967)

Zooming in into the architectural scale, what qualities shall an individual possess in order to be a real human being? The dominant reply to this inquiry is that humans are initially social beings that behave accordingly in a social life in order to fulfill their needs. Being part of this view, the personality is unsolidified and changes when combined with human senses and common mechanisms as social, cultural, and linguistic where everyone join (Richard, 2007) this way of thinking contradicts that of Descartes if we are to observe the Discourse on Method (1637) and Meditations on First Philosophy (1641), since social participation is removed from the process of finding truth. For Descartes, our motivation to attain opposite views is the result of unreliability that we found in when relying on our senses. The main purpose of this way of thinking is to remove people from what they acquired and experienced as previous information in order to be able to define exactly the truth that is behind each one of us. This aim is kind of impossible since a person cannot deny the previous history and behavior setting that he used to and that are blocking his ability to recognize the realm. The most trustfully truth is found within each one of us and not following certain rules and regulations to reach it. (Richard, 2007)

In contrast to Maslow pyramid where an essential level in human being life is the belonging need because people has a fear of solitude, they need to have this sense that makes them more safe and secured. A human being always encounter changes and process throughout his life that is interchangeable according to the society and time factor and not a fixed entity. If a person does not participate within his society, he or she won’t be able to be a fully individual. For Locke, socialization is an essential process to pass through in each stage or one’s life. (Locke, 1988)

The German sociologist Georg Simmel, argues that sociability is independent from a person development. For him, an individual is unable to reach a cultural background unless he is involved in his society. (Simmel, 1968) he stated that through being part of a large group in the society helps developing the individuality of each person since people within these groups search for common grounds between each other in order to cooperate and integrate more by creating interlocking relationships. The main aim is clear: as long as a person involves and interacts socially with his surroundings and society, he or she discovers more about himself and develop more his individuality which would be also reflected in the settings of the city. For Simmel, the edge present between individuality and collectivity is not a stable: a person is neither an individual creature nor a collective one. (Simmel, 1968) therefore, a notion has been always used which is more complex, disordered, rich a society is the more it is able to provide its individual with rich experience that is essential for the building of their own development and strength. This methodology indicates the importance of the process of socialization in the progress of a society. However this concept was not applied by everyone and some others found the need to go into and antisocial society. (Richard, 2007)

A city theorist would support the idea of socialization in the city as long as he or she regards it as a positive mean for the city. In contrast to Le Corbusier, who didn’t take into consideration this method. A supporter of Le Corbusier way of thinking is Pascal’s Pensées in 1670. For Pascal, living within a group and being attached to the society, people will be doing lots of activities that will divert them from fronting their own truth and individuality. The only explanation of one’s interaction with others is for this person own satisfaction and needs. Pascal states that relationships between individuals are useless and meaningless. Since human qualities and behaviors change through time therefore, individual shall not waste their time in understanding and knowing more about others qualities and common grounds. Through solitude, a person is able to analyze his or her own self without communicating with others that would be obstacles for our true self. Thus, Pascal tries to convince to not rely on other people and become devoted to them. Le Corbusier denoted the way of thinking of Pascal when he was inspired about the social life that he predicted in his plans for the city of Paris. For him, rest is when a person spends more time in his room in his solitude analyzing his own self. He intended to force people to spend more time in their room more than spending it with other people in other places (Richard, 2007). The way of thinking of Le Corbusier indicates his vision of segregating people each one on his own by favoring the time they spend with their solitude. He had multilevel where the cars transportation meets the pedestrian to reduce common interaction between people. Other details were thought of in order to perfectualize his vision such as creating one floor that hosts a big kitchen that has the function of serving all the rooms, no public restaurants are available. Sound proofing walls are adding to reduce any noise coming from neighboring cells. The proposed towers have a cross shape to reduce visual interaction between people. The only views to the outside is nature as sky and greenery. As a summary, Le Corbusier insists on the fact that a person should his own space bubble where he is free to do whatever he want without being disturbed from other interfering in his own self and solitude. However, this kind of individuality is isolating the city from its users where the group concept is removed therefore a city would never evolve and progress since each one is living on its own with no need of others. However a group is able to influence the city and government decisions toward the city users. As example the intentions to make a highway pass through users buildings in Mar Michael el nahr, Beirut, people started manifesting against it and doing campaigns to influence the government decisions, individuality can never solve such issues. However, Le Corbusier was not aware of these antisocial ambitions, neither their main threat which is criminality. Similarly an observation was done by Albert Camus to explore the rate the degree of association of the antisocial way of thinking and performance of people while connecting it with criminality. “Every ethic conceived in solitude, implies the exercise of power” Camus states in The Rebel (1951). There are different types of crimes as crime of passion, crime of logic that an antisocial person detect. The main idea of Camus was thinking that revolt is an indispensable constituent of life even if this rebellion might be reflected into violence whether in thoughts, in society or in individuality, this cannot deny its importance. For him, revolution is sincere, as long as it does not transform the thought into act, however by doing so, it is considered as a fixed action. Therefore, the revolt must have a way that coexist along the border half away from isolation and society. This shows how Le Corbusier was unable to grasp the threats that a constructed antisocial city would host. He is considered as more than an excellent architect at the architectural scale but when he started to think on the urban scale, this is where the catastrophes started with him.

Nowadays, cities are valued and measured, without question, depending on the degree of social activity that they host par excellence. Therefore, having an idea of creating an antisocial city, as a proposal by an urban planner, is considered an alien idea to the current ways of thinking and behaving. That’s why the ideas of modern theorist and utopic way of thinking should be dismissed and replaced by the needs of the city and its users (Richard, 2007).

During the first half of the twentieth century, Le Corbusier stressed on thinking about cities, however, in her book The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961), Jane Jacobs, an urban economist who opposes completely the antisocial vision of Le Corbusier, discussed that “real people are unique, they invest years of their lives in significant relationships with other unique people, and are not interchangeable in the least. Severed from their relationships, they are destroyed as effective social beings — sometimes for a little while, sometimes forever.” In other terms, being engaged in a condensed net of accountable social interaction, people will be able to acquire characters and identities. While detecting an assembly of boisterous children in a communal project, Jacobs stated that “these were anonymous children, and the identities behind them were an unknown. . . . Impersonal city streets make anonymous people… I think that people need other people.” One might consider that only in villages, people demand other people and need to live closely. However, the main argument of Jacobs is that living in cities deliver a diversity in relationships and interaction among people, this could happen only if antisocial urban planners are forbidden to depict the city streets as “detached” and their users as “unidentified.” (Richard, 2007)

A relevant example could be mentioned is the local Lebanese intentions of devaluing the use of cars in places in the city, such as the “Beirut By Bike” activity launched to favor a more eco-friendly and human movements in the city, a fun chilling bicycle ride around Beirut.These activities serve as urban tools to encourage social inclusions, interaction and use of the city streets by the city users. These activities are also manifested in Tripoli where a biking event was initiated with a defined bike trajectory from Maarad Rashid Karami as starting point going to the waterfront and cornice. A city without its streets and a street without the city users cannot function. Similarly to the case of Gemayzeh, Beirut, main linear narrow street, it is a dense strip in the city and very active during the day and night. What a city needs is always a human scale layer interlocking with its function, grid, infrastructure and other layers. The city needs its users and vice versa and the streets are the main places lying between the two where the utmost human social activities should occur to make the city function. Even though social cities has negative impacts on the users as favoring problems, facing more difficulties and increasing complications, but its negative impact is able to be grasped more than that of the antisocial city. That’s why creating an antisocial city is not a solution for the problems encountered in a social city but a way to increase its complications more.


  • Main article: Richard, S. (2007). The Antisocial Urbanism of Le Corbusier, The

Urban Reinventors, volume 13, issue (1), pp. 50-56

  • Jacobs, J. I2007). What Makes A City? Planning for Quality of Space,

IOS Press: Amsterdam

  • Beecher, J. & Bienvenu, R. (1971). The Utopian Vision of Charles Fourier, Beacon

Press: Boston

  • Camus, A. (1978). The Rebel An Essay on Man Revolt, Alfred A. Knopf: New York
  • Richards, S. (2003). Le Corbusier and The Concept of Self, Yale University Press: New

Haven and London

  • Simmel, G. (1968). Conflict and the Web of Group Affiliations, THE FREE PRESS:

New York

  • Serenyi, P. (1967). Le Corbusier, Fourier, and the Monastery of Ema, Art Bulletin 49.4,

pp. 277 – 92.

  • Locke, J. (1988). Two Treatises of Government, ed. Peter Laslett (1690; Cambridge:

Cambridge University Press, pp. 269 – 78, 283 – 302, 318 – 53.

  • Pascal, B. (1670) Pensées, trans. A. J. Krailsheimer, London: Penguin, 40,

42, 43, 59, 275.