Jul 30, 2008

Modulor measuring tape

Vitra has reissued Le Corbusier's Modulor measuring tape circa 1945. What is The Modulor? Some think of it as the most important modern attempt to develop a mathematic measurement system based on the proportions of the human body. Le Corbusier developed the Modulor in the same tradition of Leonardo da Vinci's Vitruvian Man in an attempt to discover mathematical proportions in the human body that would improve the appearance and function of architecture. The system is based on human measurements as well as the double unit, the Fibonacci numbers, and the golden ratio. Le Corbusier described it as a "range of harmonious measurements to suit the human scale, universally applicable to architecture and to mechanical things." Critics, however, have pointed out a number of concerns with his system. The height of the figure appears to be arbitrary and was perhaps chosen for mathematical convenience. The female body, in the words of reviewer Michael Ostwald, "was only belatedly considered and rejected as a source of proportional harmony". The system bears no relationship to actual anthropometric observations. But, that said, the Swiss take their native son's invention very seriously—there is a picture of it on the 10 CHF (Swiss Franc bill).

During his lifetime only a few samples of this measuring tape were created—for his personal use in the design of building projects. An original artifact in the holdings of the Foundation Le Corbusier served as the model for this new edition by the Vitra Design Museum. Makes a great gift for an architect or design enthusiast. Pick it up right here ($76).

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