Memories of Le Corbusier

Massimo Vignelli recalls his days as a “groupie” hanging out with the greatest architects of the 20th century.
  • Transcript


Question: What was Le Corbusier like?

Massimo Vignelli: Well, we were lucky enough to meet all the great masters of architecture and design from Le Corbusier to Mies van der Rohe, from Alvar Aalto to Charles Eames, and it is nice to know them.  And if you aren’t stupid, they like you too.  And parties, you know.  Anyhow, Le Corbusier was well, was God at the time, you could imagine.  I remember one time, we were traveling from Milan to Venice on a train, he was going to give a lecture in Venice, and he was traveling with a friend of mine, an architect friend, a very important architect at the time, and so, I could resist, I went to the same compartment where they were, you known, and I was doing an architectural magazine at the time, so just like you, I was very interested in interviewing the great master, you know.  And I remember at one point he said, when I was sitting next to Le Corbusier, and he said, “Wow, this young man has a lot of heat.”  It was summer.  Maybe we were tight together, but he meant it as a kind of a – well, it was fun.  And I have stories about every one of those big masters. 

One night we had dinner, we had several dinners in Chicago with Mies van der Rohe because I was teaching at the Institute of Design in Chicago.  And again, very exciting stories, I mean, he was a great storyteller, he would tell stories over the Barcelona Pavilion, how it came about and all the things that happened during the construction and a thousand of antidotes from every one of them.  And it was fun.  So, you know, as I say, I was a groupie, so this is why I am never annoyed when wherever I go to give lectures and I see youngsters coming around, you know they want a signature.  And I understand that, I mean, I was doing the same thing.  So, it’s fine.  I am not annoyed by that at all.  And I’m glad actually, I’m glad they have some examples, somebody in their mind that is, you know is a mentor.  I mean, at the end of the day, that is the most gratifying thing.