Subjects, Objects & Models


Voyage Le Corbusier

Drawings on the Road

Voyage Le Corbusier collects a compendium of sketchbook drawings and watercolor of Charles Edouard Jenneret--a young student who would become the singularly influential modernish architect, Le Corbusier. Between 1907 and 1911, Jeanneret traveled through Europe and the Mediterranean documenting and sketching all that he saw. Tracing the steps of Le Corbusier, Jacob Brillhart excavates the “visual thinking” of the Le Corbusier, reproducing a selection of 175 drawings from these early sketchbooks. Brillhart revisits architectural history while providing a physical and intellectural road map for students, tavelers, and lovers of art and architecture.

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Note from the Author

In 2002, I began exploring the fundamentals of architecture through travel drawing - taking a series of drawing tours through Europe using Le Corbusier’s early sketchbooks as my sole travel guides. I was studying how his drawings informed his design and was also making my own drawings of the same places Le Corbusier documented.

Since that time I have made more than 600 paintings, sketches and notes of architectural details, maps, people, buildings, objects, and urban spaces in cities around the world.

This research has taught me “to see” the persistencies in architecture, such as form, mass, profile, shadow, scale, and proportion – all vital components that give character and quality to buildings. In physically drawing what I see in situ, I have also learned to analyze buildings, piece by piece, to understand their material nature and construction assemblies and how they are integrated: observing the thicknesses of each material; the details of how they are cut, fastened, and connected; whether the structure is revealed or hidden; and what they express tectonically.

In the midst of those earlier traveling drawing pursuits, Yale came out with a symposium entitled “Is Drawing Dead?” which addressed the crisis of hand drawing and its place in architecture. As parametric modeling, computational design, digital design and fabrication seemingly promised to hold the future of architecture, hand drawing had come under stress, largely thought to be confining, inefficient and unnecessary in the modern age. Having been trained in both the digital and analog learning environments, I felt I could discuss the topic with some level of credibility. 

The Yale Architectural Press came out with the 41st edition of Perspecta to talk about travel drawing – looking through the lens of the Grand Tour to understand past, present and future architectural travel. The most interesting take-aways from the journal were the four main questions it posed: where do we go?; how do we record what we see?; what do we bring back?; and how does this change us?

These questions and discourse formed the impetus for a book I published through W.W. Norton & Co. in 2015, entitled Voyage Le Corbusier: Drawing on the Road – which collects a compendium of early sketchbook drawings and watercolors by the architect.  Having studied these drawings so intensively over the past years, they taught me that we can do something the computer will never be able to do which is draw what “we see.” They also show Corbusier’s gigantic appetite for travel and visual exploration; looking and drawing to see and to understand in order to know. Meanwhile they reveal how Corbusier used his drawing as a method of research and how his drawing process evolved over time, from his initial years of beautiful watercolors to later analytical sketches and shorthand visual notetaking.

This research  — both of Corbusier’s development alongside my own personal “drawings on the road” — has  evoked an intensive physical and living architectural investigation of how I process and perceive information. With a working knowledge of those constant architectural principles that do not change, I am able to explore those other aspects of architecture that do change – such as new technologies, materials, fabrication techniques, construction assemblies, and representational media – aspects that make architecture present and transformative. 

Excerpts from Voyage Le Corbusier

Reviews of Voyage Le Corbusier

“Jacob Brillhart has done us all a service in writing this book. If it was just a collection of Corbu's drawings, that would be enough. There are drawings, sketches, paintings, watercolors. They vary in medium, size, and subject and scope. They show Corbu's skill, breadth of technique, and curiosity, and they're gorgeous. But Mr. Brillhart shares with us what he has learned from his careful, extensive study of Le Corbusuer's travel drawings, in the concise narratives that accompany the images. This book is a meditation on the act of "drawing to see." Brillhart's insightful analysis of Corbu's drawing oeuvre confirms that Corbu was both the consummate fox and dogged hedgehog. Corbu's drawings, like his work, are difficult to compartmentalize, even if they can be loosely categorized. If drawing is about learning to see, then this book is the next best thing, a narrated walk through the master's sketchbooks, becoming a dreamy tour, demonstrating the link of seeing-thinking-drawing-learning. We may not all have the time and resources to dedicate to the kind of disciplined research, study, and on-site investigation that Mr. Brillhart has committed to this subject. Thankfully he has left this book as a record of that time on the road. If you're an architect, you want this book in your library. If there's an architect in your life, you'd win the day if you gave this book as a gift on any occasion.” 

                -Christopher Pizzi (Amazon Review)

“ Ever since I first came across my father’s copies of Le Corbusier’s books Towards a New Architecture, and The Home of Man, I have been an admirer of Le Corbusier’s drawings, and the way he managed to illustrate a point about architecture or town planning with a few simple lines.

...This beautifully illustrated book charts his development through these trips through his drawings and sketches.
The author is an architect, who had previously used Le Corbusier’s journeys as a basis for his own trips, and he has assembled a chronologically arranged selection of drawings that Le Corbusier made on his travels.
The book will be of interest Corb fans of course. But it will also appeal to those who enjoy drawing buildings and the urban environment, even those who are not especially interested in Corbusier, or indeed modern architecture.
This is not a book about how to draw buildings and cityscapes, although it does discuss the materials and techniques used by Le Corbusier. But it is a book which illustrates how the process of drawing is something which we can use to help us learn to see the and understand the world around us, and in the conclusion, the author urges the reader to pick up a pencil and start drawing.”

                  -Peng Hui Liu (Amazon Review)

© 2007   /   Jacob Brillhart