The church of what's happening now

Mon, Jul 31, 2006

The Sunday, July 31 issue of the New York Times carried an overview and review, written by architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff, of the new Eglise Saint-Pierre in Firminy, France that was begun by the late French architect Le Corbusier four decades ago, faltered over the years due to lack of funding, and has just been completed this summer. Why is this relevant (besides that it's a major event in the architecture world)? A couple of reasons.

firminy church
Eglise Saint-Pierre in Firminy, France (photo: Luis Burriel)

First, Corbusier's protégé, José Oubrerie, who spearheaded the completion of the design of the church and was pictured and quoted extensively in the piece, is on the faculty of The Ohio State University's Knowlton School of Architecture, a fact that the Timesneglected to mention. (As an aside: Oubrerie was also behind parts of the installation design of the acclaimed Wexner Center exhibition Mood River in 2002.) Second, the Wexner Center is organizing an exhibition about the evolution and completion of the church, to be presented in the galleries this coming winter and spring. Curated by Megan Cavanaugh Novak, the exhibition will feature drawings, photographs, and a commissioned model of this remarkable church; it will be accompanied by a catalogue with essays by Novak and architectural theorist and OSU architecture professor Jeffrey Kipnis (also former curator of architecture & design at the Wexner Center). The show opens January 26 and runs through April 15, 2007.

Now for an excerpt or two from Ouroussoff's writeup, which addresses the ideas of authorship and authenticity (whose building is it?) that the exhibition will raise as well: “Mr. Oubrerie's triumph lies in preserving the spirit of Le Corbusier's design without treating the project as a shrine. It's a creative dialogue between peers, as well as a gift from a student to his master. Le Corbusier's gift to his pupil, one would like to believe, was to trust him with this legacy. (read the full piece here, registration required)

sherri geldin and jose ouberie
Wexner Center Director Sherri Geldin with José Oubrerie at Eglise Saint-Pierre in Firminy, France (photo: Jeffrey Kipnis)