In 1936, the Museum of Modern Art in New York invited Emilio Terry to participate in the controversial landmark exhibition “Fantastic Art, Dada and Surrealism”. Among the participants were the Spaniard, Salvador Dali, a leader of the surrealists, and the American Man Ray, best known in the art world for his avant-garde photography. However, by entering the museum establishment in the 1930s, Surrealism and Dada grew hugely fashionable, thereby loosing their avant-garde position. In the year of the exhibition, Dali was even on the cover of Time Magazine. This fur-lined teacup of Meret Oppenheim is perhaps the single most notorious Surrealist object. The work takes advantage of differences in the varieties of sensual pleasure: fur may delight the touch but it repels the tongue. It is said that a woman fainted at the Exhibition right in front of this cup and saucer with the pelt of a Chinese gazelle. Besides Meret Oppenheim, more female surrealists participated in the ‘Fatanstic Art’ exhibition. For the New York exhibition Emilio Terry realized a model of a double-spiral house, called “en colimaçon” (“snail-style”). An unfinished portrait of Terry by Salvador Dali shows a model of this house in the foreground. The snail-style house illustrates one of Terry’s theories, that the art of architecture expresses a ‘dream to be realized’ (“un rêve à réaliser”) reflecting his anti-Le Corbusier stance as an architect, pitching his own philosophy against Le Corbusier’s notion of a house as ‘a machine for living in’, “une machine a habiter”, which Le Corbusier expressed in his famous book of 1923, Towards a New Architecture. This is arguably the most influential architecture book of the twentieth century. However, surrealists, like Salvador Dali, preferred Terry’s snail-style dream house. But sad to say, Terry’s house was never built. This plum-colored house in England is said to come close to Surrealist’s dreams. Actually, it only underwent in the thirties a Surrealist refurbishment. The owner of Monkton house, the wealthy Enlish poet Edward James, was known for his patronage of the surrealist art movement. In this house stood Dali’s first lobster-telephone in white, in addition to the original Dali sofa made in the shape of Mae West’s lips. This sofa was inspired by Dali’s gouache of an apartment with furnishings rendered from Mae West’s facial features. According to Dali, architecture should produce “true realizations of solidified desires.” In Mexico Edward James built this sculpture garden with waterfalls and pools interlaced with towering Surrealist sculptures in concrete.>>Edward James

Le Corbusier vs Salvador Dali & Terry (Modernism vs Surrealism in Architecture) – Chenonceau 11

3 thoughts on “Le Corbusier vs Salvador Dali & Terry (Modernism vs Surrealism in Architecture) – Chenonceau 11

  • September 25, 2015 at 11:17 pm
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    very good !

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  • February 21, 2019 at 8:49 am
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    I came here because a friend sent me a picture of le corbusier painting in the nude he was older he had a huge scar on his thigh that ran down his leg which made me recall an architect friend of mine had a book of Dali's essay on various musings one of which is le Corbusier . Which was very amusing and not very kind

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  • June 19, 2019 at 8:12 pm
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    A great essay using a very wide net but also a very interesting one. It's a pity Terry's snail-house was not been built. An observation: In a way the Surealist dream seems to resurface in some of todays buildings based on computer 3D designs. It's as if technology is at last able to combine modern building methods with free thinking in form, surface and colour. Alas that "'originality" can easily become furmulaic in itself, as if functionality must, at least on the outside, be avoided at any cost. Worse still: Only few of these designs actually satisfy the eye of the onlooker. But what about a Terry style snailhouse combined with le Corbusiers minimalism, as that picture of the white model almost seems to suggest (to my eye at least)? Wouldn't that be a nice combination? And to also put that in a (post)modern context it could actually be built up out of 3D printed elements. Never say never: For instance: A few years back I designed a Nautilus shaped ideal house for myself without knowing about Terry's design. But it will probably also not be built. I'm not even an architect!

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