In 1925 Le Corbusier, the Swiss-French architect and pioneer of modernism, suggested razing the homes, statues, and streets of much of Paris’s Right Bank. In their place, he proposed erecting 18 identical glass towers some 650 feet high, a quarter of a mile apart, divided by lawns for pedestrians and elevated highways for cars.
Le Corbusier contended that “lovers of antiques” and progressive thinkers were at war about how humans should live. A quote attributed to him leaves no doubt as to which side he was on: “Progress is achieved through experimentation; the decision will be awarded on the field of battle of the ‘new.’ ’’
This battle has long raged in and about cities, which are thought to have first formed some 6,000 years ago in what is now Iraq. We question how best to live en masse, how to coexist. The answers change with our need for security, with passing fad and fancy, and with advances in technology.