Books, Design January 30, 2012 By Nalina Moses


RENDERING RED Voiture Minimum, 1936, by Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret. Virtual reconstruction by Antonio Amado Lorenzo.

filler29 Voiture Minimumvm title Voiture Minimum

Like movie stars who really want to direct, there were modern architects who really wanted to design cars. For early twentieth-century designers the automobile was much more than a vehicle; it was a powerful symbol of mobility, technology and progress. Walter Gropius and Adolf Loos both designed automobiles, and Le Corbusier’s design for a car called Voiture Minimum is documented in a new book of the same name. The narrative is less about the technicalities of automotive design, though, than about the great architect’s ambitions to build a car that embodied the ideas about space and form expressed so powerfully in his buildings. Le Corbusier designed Voiture Minimum with his cousin, architect Pierre Jeanneret, in 1936 as an entry to a competition sponsored by the French car manufacturer’s consortium SIA (Societe des Ingenieurs de l’Automobile). The competition guidelines didn’t govern style, but only specified the vehicle’s exterior dimensions, motor power, and retail price. Le Corbusier and Jeanneret put a great deal of effort into their design and, after it was submitted to SIA, approached different manufacturers and engineers to help put the model into production. While Le Corbusier built hundreds of structures throughout the world during his lifetime, he wasn’t able to build this car. All that remain of the project are pencil sketches and technical drawings, which historians have used to construct physical and computer models.