From XPUB & Lens-Based wiki

The Language of the World Museum:Otto Neurath, Paul Otlet, Le Corbusier by Nader Vossoughian

1933 Neurath statement in Survey graphik: the serial reproduction of modern museums could promote the democra-tization of culture in economic and culturalterms;economically Neurath reasoned, becauseFordist, assembly-line production methodscould help reduce costs incurred through thepurchasing and displaying of exhibits; and cul-turally, he contended, because standardizing museums could foster a common sense of histo-ry and tradition world-wide "[t]ospeak of the museum of the future is like speak-ing of the automobile of the future. Automobiles are manufactured in series and notproduced one by one in a smithy"

he began to view the modern museum as a form of communication whose boundaries were nolonger constrained by physical matter uni-fied, planned, central control of all museumsand educational institutions

In order to realize his dream of a mechanically reproducible museum, Neurath began to work out,conceptually, “universal spaces,” that is, exhibitionhalls that could be adapted to any geographical orcultural circumstance,in conjunction with the artistGerd Arntz Arntz, like Neurath, wanted to mergewhat objects say , semiotically speaking, with how they appear , in ontological terms. Arntz was a socialist concerned with making social reality acces-sible to the masses.and he sought accordingly todevelop a visual idiom that could cast the plight of the working class in a dialectical light, that is to say,in relation to the larger economic “superstructure”of modern society.

His and Neurath’s was thus a search for the primalbeginnings of language (where “groups of peopleare truly represented by groups of people,”as Arntzonce put it), much as rationalist philosopherLeibniz had sought to achieve in his own work onthe scientific origins of language Arntz andNeurath sought to create “meta-Isotypes,” that is,three-dimensional axonometric and two-dimen-sional elevation drawings that illustrated how, ideal-ly, the graphic displays of the Museum of Society and Economy could to be standardized in space and time

Neurath’s 1936 International Picture Language - were important because they reflectNeurath’s long-standing preoccupation withuncovering the grammar of three-dimensionalreality

Through mass standardization, Neurath believed he could help forge this new ideal language, if not for science then for society at large.He felt that the standardization of culture couldhelp bring reason and rationality to the masseswhile also promoting global understanding

In trying to account for Neurath’s preoccupa-tion with standardization and museums, a morecompelling answer, I would argue, is to look atNeurath’s relationship with the Belgian bibliog-rapher and museum director Paul Otlet, whoseefforts to consolidate the knowledge of theworld into a single, common database paralleledNeurath’s concern for democratizing the dissem-ination of culture and information.

Otlet, 1910, world palace, 1928 talks in Geneva about the creation of the World City, with assistance from Le corbusier

“[i]n ourown day Paul Otlet (Palais Mondial, Brussels) istaking a step further,” Neurath wrote in 1936.“His idea is the building of a ‘ cité mondiale ’ forthe organization of museums and the distribu-tion of printed materials and pictures. He madea start to get together picture material from allcountries. He has the desire to get museums of a new sort started in all countries:MUNDANEUMs, that is, museums of man’sdevelopment.”

In hindsight, Neurath probably mischaracterized Otlet’s goals (the idea of stan-dardizing museums throughout the world wasmore his dream than Otlet’s), but Otlet never-theless helped Neurath adapt his ideas aboutmuseums to the global arena, to consider how his philosophy about museums and visual com-munication could be executed on an interna-tional scale.

For Otlet,the world of communication represented the“glue” that brought the world ever closer together

In 1924, Otlet drafted his firststatements calling for the creation of a global‘Mundaneum’ (also known as the cité mondial ),which he believed should include a university,library, museum, and public gathering hall. In 1928, Otlet solicitedconcrete architectural proposals for the WorldCity from Le Corbusier and his partner andcousin Pierre Jeanneret. Although Otlet wouldhave had reason to select the Belgian GardenCity designer Louis van Swaelmen (1883-1929)instead (van Swaelman had created a prototype World City outside Brussels), he decided uponLe Corbusier because of his international pres-tige and his previous involvement in the 1927League of Nations competition.

In their joint publication, Mundaneum, (1928),Otlet and Le Corbusier outlined their plans forthe World City. Otlet stated that the project wasto be built on the shores of Lake Geneva. According to Otlet, the goal of the WorldCity was to “have as its object the demonstra-tion of the actual state of the world, of its mech-anisms, complexity… the general problems thatimpose themselves upon the attention of a peo-ple and its citizens and its leaders. Otlet didnot spell out how anyone would actually live in.he world city, but he did stress that its corebuildings would house information about histo-ry, science, the arts, education, geography, andsociology: “The museum will have presentationsof objects and collections of materials,” Otletwrote, “but its intention will be essentially tovisualize ideas, feelings, [and] intentions that liebehind. It will be an “Idearium.”” Otlet statedthat the World City would set bibliographicaland documentary standards for the maintenanceand preservation of cultures

The WorldCity was to maintain a network of relationshipswith regional museums and institutions fromaround the world, the majority of which wouldbe beholden to uniformly applied guidelines

Le Corbusier focusedalmost exclusively on the project’s relationshipto its immediate physical location.