The sketch relates closely to a series of slightly later erotic sketches of mulatas, mostly unclothed, by which Le Corbusier was clearly fascinated. They are big women, large-hipped and muscular, buttocks and breasts highly pronounced the opposite in every way from Le Corbusier himself, a pale, angular, awkward-looking European male. Look at these sketches side by side with the Baker sketch and the connection is clear enough, Baker as quasi-mulata, a safe form of exoticism, temporarily within the architect’s orbit.

The second image or more correctly set of images, dates from 1942 (that is, six years after Le Corbusier’s last visit to Rio) and depicts the Sugar Loaf progressively recuperated as image. In the first, a series of lines delineates the mountain, the beach towards Flamenco and the sea;
the second adds a palm tree on the left-hand side of the image, rendering it picturesque; the third places a man in a comfortable chair before the scene; the fourth image finally domesticates it entirely, placing a frame around the scene. Suddenly everything is clear: the Modernist house is a frame for the view; the window, as Beatriz Colomina puts it in her commentary on these images, ‘is a gigantic screen’. The architect makes clear that the relationship between the house and the view is a new and unconventional one. The house is not in the view, but a means of possessing the view. Nature is now a part of the ‘lease’ as Le Corbusier puts it, ‘the pact with nature has been sealed’.

For both the architect and for Colomina in her much later commentary, the act of framing nature in this way is an erotic one. For Le Corbusier, nature’s forms and the forms of the mulatas (and Josephine Baker) were inseparable, and his architectural responses to the scene in Rio de Janeiro were about preserving the erotics of the site as far as possible. So the megastructure that insinuates its way between the port and Copacabana is first and foremost a means of representing the erotic experience of nature. Its sinuous form simultaneously represents the geography of the city’s coastline and the bodies of its female inhabitants. Le Corbusier’s plan was never built, but its representation of the erotics of Rio had important consequences for subsequent modern architecture in Brazil.
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