L'Homme Modulor
c. 1957
Le Corbusier (sculpted by Constantin Andréou)

26⅞ x 2⅜ x 88 ½”

The silhouette of a man with a raised arm is realised on a concrete wall in Berlin. This human imprint, like a signature, has become the symbol of a new approach to architecture. Le Corbusier had long been fascinated by the impact of space on human psychology. Echoing an interest which stretched back to Antiquity, the architect sought out the proportions and measurements which would determine harmonious form. Yet in contrast to the monumental constructions of ancient times, he proposed a new architecture whose rationalism was founded on a human scale. In the early 1940s, Le Corbusier’s research coalesced into a coherent entity, which he later named Modulor. An instrument which was both poetic and mathematical, it was based on a single universal reference: the human body, albeit one whose size was arbitrarily fixed at 2.26 metres in height, including its raised arm. Le Corbusier extrapolated from this measure the exact relations between the figure and its surrounding space. To achieve this, the architect deferred to the divine proportion – the golden ratio – as well as to research conducted by his friend Andreas Speizer, a leading exponent of group theory.

Le Corbusier’s investigations into this system became an obsession, as he continued to work out his ideas via countless versions and across various media, including sketches, scale models and paintings. It was in 1947 that his research reached a climax, and that he invited Constantin Andréou to sculpt the figures of his Modulor men which would later be embedded in the still-fresh concrete walls of his Cité Radieuse. His intention was that the Modulor would become a physical object, visible to all, and as such enabling residents and passers-by to become familiar with the new concept. As such, Modulor would become the modern equivalent of the metre bars which had been placed two centuries earlier around 18th Century Paris, and which had progressively become accepted as the revolutionary new method of measurement. —Christie’s

(Photo: Christie’s)