Charles-Édouard Jeanneret-Gris, who chose to be known as Le Corbusier (October 6, 1887 – August 27, 1965), was a Swiss-French architect, designer, urban writer and painter, famous for being one of the pioneers of Modern Architecture or the International Style. He was born in Switzerland, but became a French citizen in his 30s. He was a pioneer in studies of modern high design and was dedicated to providing better living conditions for the residents of crowded cities. About 1907, he travelled to Paris, where he found work in the office of Auguste Perret, the French pioneer of reinforced concrete. Le Corbusier taught at his old school in La-Chaux-de-Fonds during World War I, not returning to Paris until the war was over. During these four years in Switzerland, he worked on theoretical architectural studies using modern techniques. Among these was his project for the "Dom-ino" House (1914-1915).
In 1918, Le Corbusier met the Cubist painter, Amédée Ozenfant, in whom he recognised a kindred spirit. Ozenfant encouraged him to paint, and the two began a period of collaboration. Rejecting Cubism as irrational and ‘romantic,’ the pair jointly published their manifesto, Après le cubisme and established a new artistic movement, Purism. Ozenfant and Jeanneret established the Purist journal L'Esprit nouveau. After World War II, Le Corbusier attempted to realise his urban planning schemes on a small scale by constructing a series of ‘unités’ (the housing block unit of the Radiant City) around France. The most famous of these was the Unité d'Habitation of Marseilles (1946-1952). In the 1950s, a unique opportunity to translate the radiant city on a grand scale presented itself in the construction of Chandigarh, the new capital for the Indian states of Punjab and Haryana. Le Corbusier was brought on to develop the plan of Albert Mayer.
Throughout the years, many architects worked for Le Corbusier in his studio and a number of them became notable in their own right, including painter-architect Nadir Afonso, who absorbed Le Corbusier's ideas into his own aesthetics theory. His philosophies were useful to urban real estate development interests in the American Post World War II period because they justified and lent architectural and intellectual support to the desire to destroy traditional urban space for high-density high profit urban concentration, both commercial and residential.
Le Corbusier was attracted to the visual arts and studied at the La-Chaux-de-Fonds Art School under Charles L'Eplattenier, who had studied in Budapest and Paris. His architecture teacher in the Art School was the René Chapallaz, who had a large influence on Le Corbusier's earliest houses.
His working in Berlin and meeting Mies van der Rohe and Walter Gropius were experiences that proved influential in his later career. Le Corbusier was heavily influenced by problems he saw in industrial cities at the turn of the century (that is, from the 19th to the 20th century). He thought that industrial housing techniques led to crowding, dirtiness and a lack of a moral landscape. Ebenezer Howard's Garden Cities of Tomorrow heavily influenced Le Corbusier and his contemporaries.
In this new industrial spirit, Le Corbusier contributed to a new journal called L'Esprit Nouveau that advocated the use of modern industrial techniques and strategies to transform society into a more efficient environment with a higher standard of living on all socio-economic levels. He forcefully argued that this transformation was necessary to avoid the spectre of revolution that would otherwise shake society. His dictum, "Architecture or Revolution," developed in his articles in this journal, became his rallying cry for the book Vers une architecture (Toward an Architecture, previously mistranslated into English as Towards a New Architecture), which comprised selected articles he contributed to L'Esprit Nouveau between 1920 and 1923. In this book, Le Corbusier followed the influence of Walter Gropius and reprinted several photographs of North American factories and grain elevators.
For a number of years French officials had been unsuccessful in dealing with the squalor of the growing Parisian slums and Le Corbusier sought efficient ways to house large numbers of people in response to the urban housing crisis. He believed that his new, modern architectural forms would provide a new organisational solution that would raise the quality of life for the lower classes.
Le Corbusier hoped that politically minded industrialists in France would lead the way with their efficient Taylorist and Fordist strategies, adopted from American industrial models to reorganise society.
Theoretical urban schemes continued to occupy Le Corbusier. He exhibited his ‘Plan Voisin,’ sponsored by another famous automobile manufacturer, in 1925. In it, he proposed to bulldoze most of central Paris, north of the Seine and replace it with his sixty-story cruciform towers from the Contemporary City, placed in an orthogonal street grid and park-like green space. His scheme was met with criticism and scorn from French politicians and industrialists, although they were favourable to the ideas of Taylorism and Fordism underlying Le Corbusier designs. Nonetheless, it did provoke discussion concerning how to deal with the cramped, dirty conditions that enveloped much of the city.
In the 1930s, Le Corbusier expanded and reformulated his ideas on urbanism, eventually publishing them in La Ville Radieuse (The Radiant City) of 1935. Perhaps the most significant difference between the Contemporary City and the Radiant City is that the latter abandons the class-based stratification of the former; housing is now assigned according to family size, not economic position
"You employ stone, wood, and concrete, and with these materials you build houses and palaces: that is construction. Ingenuity is at work. But suddenly you touch my heart, you do me good. I am happy and I say: "This is beautiful. That is Architecture. Art enters in..." (Vers une architecture, 1923)
"Architecture is the masterly, correct, and magnificent play of form in light."
"Space and light and order. Those are the things that men need just as much as they need bread or a place to sleep."
"The house is a machine for living in." (Vers une architecture, 1923)
"It is a question of building which is at the root of the social unrest of today: architecture or revolution." (Vers une architecture, 1923)
"Modern life demands, and is waiting for, a new kind of plan, both for the house and the city." (Vers une architecture, 1923)
"The 'Styles' are a lie." (Vers une architecture, 1923)
Major buildings and projects
1905: Villa Fallet, La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland
1912: Villa Jeanneret-Perret, La Chaux-de-Fonds
1916: Villa Schwob, La Chaux-de-Fonds
1923: Villa La Roche/Villa Jeanneret, Paris
1924: Pavillon de L'Esprit Nouveau, Paris (destroyed)
1924: Quartiers Modernes Frugès, Pessac, France
1925: Villa Jeanneret, Paris
1926: Villa Cook, Boulogne-sur-Seine, France
1927: Villas at Weissenhof Estate, Stuttgart, Germany
1928: Villa Savoye, Poissy-sur-Seine, France
1929: Armée du Salut, Cité de Refuge, Paris
1930: Pavillon Suisse, Cité Universitaire, Paris
1930: Maison Errazuriz, Chile
1931: Palace of the Soviets, Moscow, USSR (project)
1931: Immeuble Clarté, Geneva, Switzerland
1933: Tsentrosoyuz, Moscow, USSR
1936: Palace of Ministry of National Education and Public Health, Rio de Janeiro (as a consultant to Lucio Costa, Oscar Niemeyer and others)
1938: The "Cartesian" sky-scraper (project)
1945: Usine Claude et Duval, Saint-Dié-des-Vosges, France
1947–1952: Unité d'Habitation, Marseille, France
1948: Curutchet House, La Plata, Argentina
1949–1952: United Nations headquarters, New York City (Consultant)
1950–1954: Chapelle Notre Dame du Haut, Ronchamp, France
1951: Cabanon de vacances, Roquebrune-Cap-Martin
1951: Maisons Jaoul, Neuilly-sur-Seine, France
1951: Mill Owners' Association Building, villa Sarabhai and villa Schodan, Ahmedabad, India
1952: Unité d'Habitation of Nantes-Rezé, Nantes, France
1952–1959: Buildings in Chandigarh, India
1952: Palace of Justice (Chandigarh)
1952: Museum and Gallery of Art (Chandigarh)
1953: Secretariat Building (Chandigarh)
1953: Governor's Palace (Chandigarh)
1955: Palace of Assembly (Chandigarh)
1959: Government College of Arts (GCA) and the Chandigarh College of Architecture(CCA)(Chandigarh)
1956: Museum at Ahmedabad, Ahmedabad, India
1956: Saddam Hussein Gymnasium, Baghdad, Iraq
1957: Unité d'Habitation of Briey en Forêt, France
1957: National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo
1957: Maison du Brésil, Cité Universitaire, Paris
1957–1960: Sainte Marie de La Tourette, near Lyon, France (with Iannis Xenakis)
1957: Unité d'Habitation of Berlin-Charlottenburg, Flatowallee 16, Berlin
1957: Unité d'Habitation of Meaux, France
1958: Philips Pavilion, Brussels, Belgium (with Iannis Xenakis) (destroyed) at the 1958 World Expositon
1961: Center for Electronic Calculus, Olivetti, Milan, Italy
1961: Carpenter Centre for the Visual Arts, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States
1964: Unité d'Habitation of Firminy, France
1966: Stadium Firminy-Vert
1965: Maison de la culture de Firminy-Vert
1969: Church of Saint-Pierre, Firminy, France (built posthumously and completed under José Oubrerie's guidance in 2006)
1967: Heidi Weber Museum (Centre Le Corbusier), Zurich
Major written works
1918: Après le cubisme (After Cubism), with Amédée Ozenfant
1923: Vers une architecture (Towards a New Architecture)
1925: Urbanisme (Urbanism)
1925: La Peinture moderne (Modern Painting), with Amédée Ozenfant
1925: L'Art décoratif d'aujourd'hui (The Decorative Arts of Today)
1931: Premier clavier de couleurs (First Color Keyboard)
1935: La Ville radieuse (The Radiant City)
1942: Charte d'Athènes (Athens Charter)
1943: Entretien avec les étudiants des écoles d'architecture (A Conversation with Architecture Students)
1945: Les Trios éstablishments Humains (The Three Human Establishments)
1948: Le Modulor (The Modulor)
1953: Le Poeme de l'Angle Droit (The Poem of the Right Angle)
1955: Le Modulor 2 (The Modulor 2)
1959: Deuxième clavier de couleurs (Second Colour Keyboard)
1966: Le Voyage d'Orient (The Voyage to the East)