Ronchamp’s ‘raw architectural power’

Ed Tyler photographs Corb’s Chapel of Notre Dame du Haut

Chapel of Notre Dame du Haut, Ronchamp Le Corbusier
Chapel of Notre Dame du Haut, Ronchamp Le Corbusier · Credit: Ed Tyler

Having gone off-piste lately with the photo­grapher page, it was almost shocking when Ed Tyler offered us a classic view of the recently UNESCO-listed Chapel of ­Notre Dame du Haut; but it turns out his choice of image was less of a comment on the timelessness of modernism and more one about ­modern transience.

‘Post Brexit and the overwhelming gloom of the referendum result, I felt that I needed a little ray of sunshine,’ he told me; and so he gave us one, courtesy of Corb.

The image was taken while he was accompanying Ted Cullinan on the ‘My Inspiration’ series, covered in the pages of BD magazine, in which architects gave us a tour of the architecture that influenced their own aesthetic development. Tyler did 35 of them at the time; and while he felt privileged to be visiting some of Europe’s finest modern buildings with people who had an encyclopaedic knowledge of and respect for them, he admits there was a certain contingency to the days, involving early starts, limited ­access and ‘on the hoof’ shoots.

Yet note the grain of this high resolution image, the rendered texture of the chapel’s famous south wall seeming to suffuse the image as if it were blotting paper; rays of warm autumnal sun bleaching the centre of the frame while a crimson light slowly bleeds into the cool dark of the space. Tyler recalls: ‘It struck me that this was how the building should be seen – its raw architectural power.’

Does that account for his image’s ­poetic granular nature? ‘No it was just a very high ISO film to deal with hand-held shoots and the need for bigger apertures,’ he matter-of-factly tells me: visual noise ironically conveying Ronchamp’s raw, epic silence.