At the end of the 1920s, Le Corbusier's grand plan for the future of the city was evolving rapidly: the layered and open-ended scheme of his Ville contemporaine of 1922 was developing into the linearity and political homogeneity of his Ville radieuse of 1930–31, which these sketches anticipate. Le Corbusier visited South America in 1929, a memorable trip that allowed him to survey the tropical landscapes and cityscapes from the air at leisure, with the help of the aviators Jean Mermoz and Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. The uniqueness of the landscape, and the contrast between the forest and open terrain and the sprawling, suffocating cities, inspired him to draw up new plans for Montevideo and São Paulo.
The sketch for Montevideo, at the top of the drawing, highlights a giant business center under a motorway that juts into the bay, connecting the most important buildings and bypassing the preexisting urban chaos. The plan for São Paulo, below, attempts to dodge the city's traffic by setting a cruciform arrangement of motorways on the roofs of residential apartment blocks. Making powerful strokes and cuts through the landscape, Le Corbusier envisions superimposing buildings and freeways on a giant scale over the existing urban fabric. Instead of a center, the new city would have satellites and zones, all with their own infrastructural systems.
"I prefer drawing to talking. Drawing is faster, and allows less room for lies", Le Corbusier remarked in 1961. These sketches testify to the strength of his ideas' flow onto the paper.
Publication excerpt from an essay by Paola Antonelli, in Matilda McQuaid, ed., Envisioning Architecture: Drawings from The Museum of Modern Art, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2002, p. 68.