Le Corbusier

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Le Corbusier
Le Corbusier 1933.JPG
Le Corbusier in 1933
Born Charles-Édouard Jeanneret-Gris[1]
(1887-10-06)October 6, 1887
La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland
Died August 27, 1965(1965-08-27) (aged 77)
Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, France
Nationality Swiss, French
Occupation Architect
Awards AIA Gold Medal (1961), Grand Officiers of the Légion d'honneur (1964)
Buildings Villa Savoye, Poissy
Villa La Roche, Paris
Unité d'habitation, Marseille
Notre Dame du Haut, Ronchamp
Buildings in Chandigarh, India
Projects Ville radieuse
Le Corbusier signature.svg

Charles-Édouard Jeanneret, known as Le Corbusier (French: [lə kɔʁbyzje]; October 6, 1887 – August 27, 1965), was a Swiss-French architect, designer, painter, urban planner, writer, and one of the pioneers of what is now called modern architecture. He was born in Switzerland and became a French citizen in 1930. His career spanned five decades; he constructed buildings in Europe, Japan, India, and North and South America.

Dedicated to providing better living conditions for the residents of crowded cities, Le Corbusier was influential in urban planning, and was a founding member of the Congrès international d'architecture moderne (CIAM). Le Corbusier prepared the master plan for the city of Chandigarh in India, and contributed specific designs for several buildings there.

On July 17, 2016, seventeen projects by Le Corbusier in seven countries were inscribed in the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites as "an Outstanding Contribution to the Modern Movement".[2]

Early life (1887–1904)[edit]

Le Corbusier (Charles-Édouard Jeanneret), 1920, Nature morte (Still Life), oil on canvas, 80.9 cm × 99.7 cm (31.9 in × 39.3 in), Museum of Modern Art, New York

Charles-Édouard Jeanneret was born on October 6, 1887 in La Chaux-de-Fonds, a small city in the French-speaking Neuchâtel canton in north-western Switzerland, in the Jura mountains, just 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) across the border from France. It was an industrial town, devoted to the manufacture of watches. (He adopted the pseudonym of Le Corbusier in 1920). His father was an artisan who enameled boxes and watches, while his mother gave piano lessons. His elder brother Albert was an amateur violinist.[3] He attended a kindergarten that used Fröbelian methods.[4][5][6]

Like his contemporaries Frank Lloyd Wright and Mies van der Rohe, Le Corbusier did not have formal academic training as an architect. He was attracted to the visual arts and at the age of fifteen he entered the municipal art school in La-Chaux-de-Fonds which taught the applied arts connected with watchmaking. Three years later he attended the higher course of decoration, founded by the painter Charles L'Eplattenier, who had studied in Budapest and Paris. Le Corbusier wrote later that L'Eplattenier had made him "a man of the woods" and taught him painting from nature.[3] His father took him frequently into the mountains around the town. He wrote later, "we were constantly on mountaintops; we grew accustomed to a vast horizon." [7] His architecture teacher in the Art School was the architect René Chapallaz, who had a large influence on Le Corbusier's earliest house designs. However, he reported later that it was the art teacher L'Eplattenier who made him choose architecture. "I had a horror of architecture and architects," he wrote. "...I was sixteen, I accepted the verdict and I obeyed. I moved into architecture." [8]

Travel and first houses (1905-14)[edit]

Le Corbusier began teaching himself by going to the library to read about architecture and philosophy, by visiting museums, by sketching buildings, and by constructing them. In 1905, he and two other students, under the supervision of their teacher, René Chapallaz, designed and built his first house, the Villa Fallet, for the engraver Louis Fallet, a friend of his teacher Charles L'Eplattenier. Located on the forested hillside near Chaux-de-fonds. It was a large chalet with a steep roof in the local alpine style and carefully-crafted colored geometric patterns on the facade. The success of this house led to his construction of two similar houses, the Villas Jacquemet and Stotzer, in the same area.[9]

In September 1907, he made his first trip outside of Switzerland, going to Italy; then that winter traveling through Budapest to Vienna, where he stayed for four months and met Gustav Klimt and tried, without success, to meet Josef Hoffman.[10] In Florence, he visited the Florence Charterhouse in Galluzzo, which made a lifelong impression on him. "I would have liked to live in one of what they called their cells," he wrote later. "It was the solution for a unique kind of worker's housing, or rather for a terrestrial paradise." [11] He traveled to Paris, and during fourteen months between 1908 until 1910 he worked as a draftsman in the office of the architect Auguste Perret, the pioneer of the use of reinforced concrete in residential construction and the architect of the Art Deco landmark Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, Two years later, Between October 1910 and March 1911, he traveled to Germany and worked four months in the office Peter Behrens, where Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Walter Gropius were also working and learning.[12]

In 1911, he traveled again for five months; this time for he journeyed to the Balkans and visited Serbia, Bulgaria, Turkey, Greece, as well as Pompeii and Rome. filling nearly 80 sketchbooks with renderings of what he saw—including many sketches of the Parthenon, whose forms he would later praise in his work Vers une architecture (1923). He spoke of what he saw during this trip in many of his books, and it was the subject of his last book, Le Voyage d'Orient.[12]

In 1912 he began his most ambitious project; a new house for his parents. also located on the forested hillside near La-Chaux-de-Fonds. The Jeanneret-Perret house was larger than the others, and in a more innovative style; the horizontal planes contrasted dramatically with the steep alpine slopes, and the white walls and lack of decoration were in sharp contrast with the other buildings on the hillside. The interior spaces were organized around the four pillars of the salon in the center, foretelling the open interiors he would create in his later buildings. The project was more expensive to build than he imagined; his parents were forced to move from the house within ten years, and relocate in a more modest house. However, it led to a commission to build an even more imposing villa in the nearby village of Le Locle for a wealthy watch manufacturer. Georges Favre-Jacot. Le Corbusier's interior designed the new house in less than a month. The building was carefully designed to fit its hillside site, and interior plan was spacious and designed around a courtyard for maximum light, significant departure from the traditional house.[13]

The Dom-ino House and and the Schwob House (1914–1918)[edit]

Charles-Édouard Jeanneret, 1914-15, Maison Dom-Ino (Dom-ino House)
The Antatole Schwob House in La-Chaux-de-Fonds (1916-1918)

During World War I, Le Corbusier taught at his old school in La-Chaux-de-Fonds, He concentrated on theoretical architectural studies using modern techniques.[14] In December 1914, along with the engineer Max Dubois, he began a serious study of the use of reinforced concrete as a building material. He had first discovered concrete working with Auguste Perret in Paris, but now wanted to use it new ways. "Reinforced concrete provided me with incredible resources", he wrote later, "and variety, and a passionate plasticity in which by themselves my structures will be rhythm of a palace, and a Pompieen tranquility.".[15] This led him to his plan for the Dom-Ino House (1914–15). This model proposed an open floor plan consisting of concrete slabs supported by a minimal number of thin reinforced concrete columns, with a stairway providing access to each level on one side of the floor plan. with this design, the framework of the house[16] He described it in his patent application as "a juxtiposable system of construction according to an infinite number of combinations of plans. This would permit, he wrote, "the construction of the dividing walls at any point on the facade or the interior." Under this system, the structure of the house did not have to appear on the outside, but could be hidden behind a glass wall, and the interior could be arranged in any way the architect liked.[17] He refined the idea in his 1927 book on the Five Points of a New Architecture. This design, which called for the disassociation of the structure from the walls, and the freedom of plans and facades, became the foundation for most of his architecture over the next ten years.[18]

In August 1916 Le Corbusier received his largest commission ever, to construct a villa for the Swiss watchmaker Antatole Schwob, for whom he had already completed several small remodeling projects. He was given a large budget and the freedom to design not only the house, but also the create the interior decoration and choose the furniture. Following the precepts of Auguste Perret, he built the structure out of reinforced concrete and filled the gaps with brick. A large open hall with a chandelier occupied the center of the building. "You can see," he wrote to Auguste Perret in July 1916, "that Auguste Perret left more in me than Peter Behrens."[19] Unfortunately, Le Corbusier's grand ambitions collided with the ideas and budget of his client, and led to bitter conflicts. Schwob went to court and denied Le Corbusier access to site, or the right to claim to be the architect. Le Corbusier responded, "Whether you like it or not, my presence is inscribed in every corner of your house." Le Corbusier took great pride in the house, and reproduced pictures in several of his books.[20]

Paris: Painting, Cubism and Purism (1918-1922)[edit]

Le Corbusier, 1922, Nature morte verticale (Vertical Still Life), oil on canvas, 146.3 cm × 89.3 cm (57.6 by 35.2 inches), Kunstmuseum Basel
Le Corbusier, 1920, Guitare verticale (2ème version), oil on canvas, 100 cm × 81 cm (39 in × 32 in), Fondation Le Corbusier, Paris

Le Corbusier moved to Paris definitively in 1917, Soon he began his own architectural practice with his cousin, Pierre Jeanneret (1896–1967), a partnership that would last until the 1950s, with an interruption in the World War II years[21]

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 Le Corbusier established the Purist journal L'Esprit Nouveau, which promoted with energy and imagination his ideas of architecture.

In the first issue of the journal, in 1920, Charles-Edouard Jeanneret adopted Le Corbusier (an altered form of his maternal grandfather's name, Lecorbésier) as a pseudonym, reflecting his belief that anyone could reinvent themselves.[22][23] Adopting a single name to identify oneself was in vogue by artists in many fields during that era, especially in Paris.

Between 1918 and 1922, Le Corbusier did not build anything, concentrating his efforts on Purist theory and painting. In 1922, he and his cousin Pierre Jeanneret opened a studio in Paris at 35 rue de Sèvres.[24]

Corbusier was not modest in describing his book. "This book is irreplaceable," he wrote, "it does not resemble any other." He described himself as "The most original of architects" and "the most alive and most vibrant of theoreticians.[25]

The Esprit Nouveau Pavilion (1925)[edit]

The Pavilion of the Esprit Nouveau (1925)

An important early work of Le Corbusier was the Esprit Nouveau Pavilion, built for the 1925 Paris International Exhibition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts, the event which later gave Art Deco its name. Le Corbusier built the pavilion in collaboration with Amédée Ozenfant and with his cousin Pierre Jeanneret. Le Corbusier and Ozenfant had broken with Cubism and formed the Purism movement in 1918 and in 1920 founded their journal L'Esprit Nouveau in 1920. In his new journal, Le Corbusier vividly denounced the decorative arts: "Decorative Art, as opposed to the machine phenomenon, is the final twitch of the old manual modes, a dying thing." To illustrate his ideas, he and Ozenfant decided to create small pavilion at the Exposition, representing his idea of the future urban housing unit. A house, he wrote, "is a cell within the body of a city. The cell is made up of the vital elements which are the mechanics of a house...Decorative art is antistandarizational. Our pavilion will contain only standard things created by industry in factories and mass produced, objects truly of the style of today...my pavilion will therefore be a cell extracted from a huge apartment building.".[26]

Le Corbusier and his collaborators were given a plot of land located behind the Grand Palais in the center of the Exposition. The plot was forested, and exhibitors could not cut down trees, so Le Corbusier built his pavilion with a tree in the center, emerging through a hole in the roof. The building was a stark white box with an interior terrace and square glass windows.The interior was decorated with a few cubist paintings and with a few pieces of mass-produced commercially available furniture, entirely different from the expensive, one-of-a-kind pieces in the other pavilions. The chief organizers of the Exposition were furious, and built a fence to partially hide the pavilion. Le Corbusier had to appeal to the Ministry of Fine Arts, which ordered that fence be taken down. .[26]

Besides the furniture, the pavilion exhibited a model of his "Plan Voisin", his provocative plan for rebuilding a large part of the center of Paris. He proposed to bulldoze a large area north of the Seine and replace the narrow streets, monuments and houses with giant sixty-story cruciform towers placed within 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 favorable to the ideas of Taylorism and Fordism underlying his designs. The plan was never seriously considered, but it provoked discussion concerning how to deal with the overcrowded poor working-class neighborhoods of Paris, and it later saw partial realization in the housing developments built in the Paris suburbs in the 1950s and 1960s.

The Pavilion was ridiculed by many critics, but Le Corbusier, undaunted, wrote: "Right now one thing is sure. 1925 marks the decisive turning point in the quarrel between the old and new. After 1925, the antique-lovers will have virtually ended their lives...Progress is achieved through experimentation; the decision will be awarded on the field of battle of the "new".[27]

Decorative Art Today (1925)[edit]

In 1925 Le Corbusier combined a series of articles about decorative art from "L'Esprit Nouveau" into a book, L'art décoratif d'aujourd'hui (Decorative Art Today). The book was a spirited attack on the very idea of decorative art. His basic premise, repeated throughout the book, was: "Modern decorative art has no decoration." [28] He attacked with enthusiasm the styles presented at the 1925 Exposition of Decorative Arts: "The desire to decorate everything about one is a false spirit and an abominable small perversion....The religion of beautiful materials is in its final death agony...The almost hysterical onrush in recent years toward this quasi-orgy of decor is only the last spasm of a death already predictable."[29] He cited the 1912 book of the Austrian architect Adolf Loos "Ornament and crime", and quoted Loos's dictum, "The more a people are cultivated, the more decor disappears." He attacked the deco revival of classical styles, what he called "Louis Philippe and Louis XVI moderne"; he condemned the "symphony of color" at the Exposition, and called it "the triumph of assemblers of colors and materials. They were swaggering in colors... They were making stews out of fine cuisine." He condemned the exotic styles presented at the Exposition based on the art of China, Japan, India and Persia. "It takes energy today to affirm our western styles." He criticized the "precious and useless objects that accumulated on the shelves" in the new style. He attacked the "rustling silks, the marbles which twist and turn, the vermilion whiplashes, the silver blades of Byzantium and the Orient…Let's be done with it!"[30]

"Why call bottles, chairs, baskets and objects decorative?" Le Corbusier asked. "They are useful tools….Decor is not necessary. Art is necessary." He declared that in the future the decorative arts industry would produce only "objects which are perfectly useful, convenient, and have a true luxury which pleases our spirit by their elegance and the purity of their execution, and the efficiency of their services. This rational perfection and precise determinate creates the link sufficient to recognize a style." He described the future of decoration in these terms: "The ideal is to go work in the superb office of a modern factory, rectangular and well-lit, painted in white Ripolin (a major French paint manufacturer); where healthy activity and laborious optimism reign." He concluded by repeating "Modern decoration has no decoration".[30]

The book became a manifesto for those who opposed the more traditional styles of the decorative arts; In the 1930s, as Le Corbusier predicted, the modernized versions of Louis Philippe and Louis XVI furniture and the brightly colored wallpapers of stylized roses were replaced by a more sober, more streamlined style. Gradually the modernism and functionality proposed by Le Corbusier overtook the more ornamental style. The shorthand titles that Le Corbusier used in the book, "1925.EXPO.ARTS.DECO was adapted in 1966 by the art historian Bevis Hillier for a catalog of an exhibition on the style, and in 1968 in the title of a book, Art Deco of the 20s and 30s. and thereafter the term "Art Deco" was commonly used as the name of the style.[31]

The Five Points of Architecture to the Villa Savoye (1923-31)[edit]

The notoriety that Le Corusier achieved from his writings and the Pavilion at the 1925 Exposition led to commissions to build a dozen residences in Paris and in the Paris region in his "purist style." These included the Maison La Roche/Albert Jeanneret (1923–25), which now houses the Fondation Le Corbusier; the Maison Guiette in Antwerp, Belgium (1926); a residence for Jacques Lipchitz; the Maison Cook, the and the Maison Planeix. In 1927, he was invited by the German Werkbund to build three houses in the model city of Weissenhof near Stuttgart, based on the Citrohan House and other theoretical models he had published. He described this project in detail one of his best-known essays, the Five Points of Architecture.[32]

The following year he began the Villa Savoye (1928-1931), which became one of the most famous of Corbusier's works, and an icon of modernist architecture. Located in Poissy, in a landscape surrounded by trees and large lawn, the house is an elegant white box poised on rows of slender pylons, surrounded by a horizontal band of windows which fill the structure with light. The service areas (parking, rooms for servants and laundry room) are located under the house. Visitors enter a vestibule from which a gentle ramp leads to the house itself. The bedrooms and salons of the house are distributed around a suspended garden; the rooms look both out at the landscape and into the garden, which provides additional light and air. Another ramp leads up to the roof, and a stairway leads down to the cellar under the pillars.

Villa Savoye succinctly summed up the five points of architecture that he had elucidated in L'Esprit Nouveau and the book Vers une architecture, which he had been developing throughout the 1920s. First, Le Corbusier lifted the bulk of the structure off the ground, supporting it by pilotis, reinforced concrete stilts. These pilotis, in providing the structural support for the house, allowed him to elucidate his next two points: a free façade, meaning non-supporting walls that could be designed as the architect wished, and an open floor plan, meaning that the floor space was free to be configured into rooms without concern for supporting walls. The second floor of the Villa Savoye includes long strips of ribbon windows that allow unencumbered views of the large surrounding garden, and which constitute the fourth point of his system. The fifth point was the roof garden to compensate for the green area consumed by the building and replacing it on the roof. A ramp rising from ground level to the third-floor roof terrace allows for an architectural promenade through the structure. The white tubular railing recalls the industrial "ocean-liner" aesthetic that Le Corbusier much admired.

Le Corbuser was quite rhapsodic when describing the house in Précisions in 1930: "the plan is pure, exactly made for the needs of the house. It has its correct place in the rustic landscape of Poissy. It is Poetry and lyricism, supported by technique," .[33] The house had its problems; the roof persistently leaked, due to construction faults; but it became a landmark of modern architecture and one of he best-known works of Le Corbusier. .[33]

Relationship with the USSR[edit]

Le Corbusier had a short relationship with the Soviet Union, starting with his first trip to Moscow in 1928, and ending with the rejection of his proposal for the Palace of the Soviets in 1932.

Personal life[edit]

While returning in 1929 from South America to Europe, Le Corbusier met entertainer and actress Josephine Baker on board the ocean liner Lutétia. Le Corbusier made several nude sketches of Baker. Soon after his return to France, Le Corbusier married Yvonne Gallis, a dressmaker and fashion model. She died in 1957. Le Corbusier also had a long extramarital affair with Swedish-American heiress Marguerite Tjader Harris.

Le Corbusier became a French citizen in 1930.[14]


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 an organizational solution that would raise the quality of life for the lower classes. His Immeubles Villas (1922) was such a project, calling for large blocks of cell-like individual apartments stacked one on top of one another, with plans that included a living room, bedrooms, and kitchen, as well as a garden terrace.

Not merely content with designs for a few housing blocks, Le Corbusier soon moved into studies for entire cities. In 1922 he presented his scheme for a "Contemporary City" for three million inhabitants (Ville Contemporaine). The centerpiece of this plan was the group of sixty-story cruciform skyscrapers, steel-framed office buildings encased in huge curtain walls of glass. Referred to as towers in a park, these skyscrapers were set within large, rectangular, park-like green spaces. At the center was a huge transportation hub that on different levels included depots for buses and trains, as well as highway intersections, and at the top, an airport. Le Corbusier had the fanciful notion that commercial airliners would land between the huge skyscrapers. He segregated pedestrian circulation paths from the roadways and glorified the automobile as a means of transportation. As one moved out from the central skyscrapers, smaller low-story, zig-zag apartment blocks (set far back from the street amid green space) housed the inhabitants. 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 reorganize society. As Norma Evenson has put it, "the proposed city appeared to some an audacious and compelling vision of a brave new world, and to others a frigid megalomaniacally scaled negation of the familiar urban ambient."[34]

L'Esprit Nouveau, No. 1, October 1920. Edited by Paul Dermée and Michel Seuphor, later by Charles-Edouard Jeanneret (Le Corbusier) and Amédée Ozenfant. Published by Éditions de l'Esprit Nouveau, Paris

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 socioeconomic 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.[35]

Theoretical urban schemes continued to occupy Le Corbusier. The Urbanisme of Le Corbusier's which culminates in the Plan Voisin, was considered the very model for the fascist state Valois called La Cité Française.[36] Le Corbusier was even more extreme than Valois himself in his geographic apartheid of the newcity. Even while Le Corbusier claims the city will be predicated on talent and the "productivist esprit," alone, Le Corbusier writes that "not all citizens could become leaders. The technocratic elite, the industrialists, financiers, engineers, and artists would be located in the city centre, while the workers would be removed to the fringes of the city"[37]

In the 1930s, Le Corbusier expanded and reformulated his ideas on urbanism, eventually publishing them in La Ville radieuse (The Radiant City) in 1935. Perhaps the most significant difference between the Contemporary City and the Radiant City is that the latter abandoned the class-based stratification of the former; housing was now assigned according to family size, not economic position.[38] Some have read dark overtones into The Radiant City: from the "astonishingly beautiful assemblage of buildings" that was Stockholm, for example, Le Corbusier saw only "frightening chaos and saddening monotony." He dreamed of "cleaning and purging" the city, bringing "a calm and powerful architecture"—referring to steel, plate glass, and reinforced concrete. Although Le Corbusier's designs for Stockholm did not succeed, later architects took his ideas and partly "destroyed" the city with them.[39]

High Court in Chandigarh, India

La Ville radieuse also marks Le Corbusier's increasing dissatisfaction with capitalism and his turn to the right-wing syndicalism of Hubert Lagardelle. During the Vichy regime, Le Corbusier received a position on a planning committee and made designs for Algiers and other cities. The central government ultimately rejected his plans, and after 1942 Le Corbusier left Vichy for Paris.[40] There he became a technical adviser at Alexis Carrel's eugenic foundation, from which he only resigned on April 20, 1944.[41]

After World War II, Le Corbusier attempted to realize 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 Marseille (1946–52). In the 1950s, a unique opportunity to translate the Radiant City on a grand scale presented itself in the construction of the Union Territory Chandigarh, the new capital for the Indian states of Punjab and Haryana and India's first planned city. Le Corbusier designed many administration buildings, including a courthouse, parliament building, and a university. He also designed the general layout of the city, dividing it into sectors. Le Corbusier was brought on to develop the plan of Albert Mayer.


The cabin where he spent his last years in Roquebrune-Cap-Martin

Against his doctor's orders, on August 27, 1965, Le Corbusier went for a swim in the Mediterranean Sea at Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, France. His body was found by bathers and he was pronounced dead at 11 a.m. It was assumed that he may have suffered a heart attack. His funeral took place in the courtyard of the Louvre Palace on September 1, 1965, under the direction of writer and thinker André Malraux, who was at the time France's Minister of Culture. He was buried alongside his wife in the grave he had designated at Roquebrune.

Le Corbusier's death had a strong impact on the cultural and political world. Tributes poured in from around the world, even from some of Le Corbusier's strongest artistic critics. Painter Salvador Dalí recognised his importance and sent a floral tribute. United States President Lyndon B. Johnson said, "His influence was universal and his works are invested with a permanent quality possessed by those of very few artists in our history." The Soviet Union added, "Modern architecture has lost its greatest master". While his funeral occurred in Paris, Japanese TV channels broadcast his Museum in Tokyo in what was at the time a unique media homage.

His grave is in the cemetery above Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, between Menton and Monaco in southern France.

The Fondation Le Corbusier (FLC) functions as his official estate.[42] The U.S. copyright representative for the Fondation Le Corbusier is the Artists Rights Society.[43]



Main article: Modulor

Le Corbusier explicitly used the golden ratio in his Modulor system for the scale of architectural proportion. He saw this system as a continuation of the long tradition of Vitruvius, Leonardo da Vinci's "Vitruvian Man", the work of Leon Battista Alberti, and others who used the proportions of the human body to improve the appearance and function of architecture. In addition to the golden ratio, Le Corbusier based the system on human measurements, Fibonacci numbers, and the double unit. Many scholars see the Modulor as a humanistic expression but it is also argued that: "It's exactly the opposite (...) It's the mathematicization of the body, the standardization of the body, the rationalization of the body."[44]

He took Leonardo's suggestion of the golden ratio in human proportions to an extreme: he sectioned his model human body's height at the navel with the two sections in golden ratio, then subdivided those sections in golden ratio at the knees and throat; he used these golden ratio proportions in the Modulor system.

Le Corbusier's 1927 Villa Stein in Garches exemplified the Modulor system's application. The villa's rectangular ground plan, elevation, and inner structure closely approximate golden rectangles.[45]

Le Corbusier placed systems of harmony and proportion at the centre of his design philosophy, and his faith in the mathematical order of the universe was closely bound to the golden section and the Fibonacci series, which he described as "rhythms apparent to the eye and clear in their relations with one another. And these rhythms are at the very root of human activities. They resound in Man by an organic inevitability, the same fine inevitability which causes the tracing out of the Golden Section by children, old men, savages, and the learned."[46]

Open Hand[edit]

Open Hand Monument in Chandigarh, India

The Open Hand (La Main Ouverte) is a recurring motif in Le Corbusier's architecture, a sign for him of "peace and reconciliation. It is open to give and open to receive." The largest of the many Open Hand sculptures that Le Corbusier created is a 26 meter high version in Chandigarh, India known as Open Hand Monument.


Le Corbusier said: "Chairs are architecture, sofas are bourgeois".

Le Corbusier began experimenting with furniture design in 1928 after inviting the architect, Charlotte Perriand, to join his studio. His cousin, Pierre Jeanneret, also collaborated on many of the designs. Before the arrival of Perriand, Le Corbusier relied on ready-made furniture to furnish his projects, such as the simple pieces manufactured by Thonet, the company that manufactured his designs in the 1930s.

In 1928, Le Corbusier and Perriand began to put the expectations for furniture Le Corbusier outlined in his 1925 book L'Art Décoratif d'aujourd'hui into practice. In the book he defined three different furniture types: type-needs, type-furniture, and human-limb objects. He defined human-limb objects as: "Extensions of our limbs and adapted to human functions that are type-needs and type-functions, therefore type-objects and type-furniture. The human-limb object is a docile servant. A good servant is discreet and self-effacing in order to leave his master free. Certainly, works of art are tools, beautiful tools. And long live the good taste manifested by choice, subtlety, proportion, and harmony".

The first results of the collaboration were three chrome-plated tubular steel chairs designed for two of his projects, The Maison la Roche in Paris and a pavilion for Barbara and Henry Church. The line of furniture was expanded for Le Corbusier's 1929 Salon d'Automne installation, 'Equipment for the Home'.

These chairs included the LC-1, LC-2, LC-3, and LC-4, originally entitled "Basculant" (LC-1), "Fauteuil grand confort, petit modèle" (LC-2, "great comfort sofa, small model"), "Fauteuil grand confort, grand modèle" (LC-3, "great comfort sofa, large model"), and "Chaise longue" (LC-4, "Long chair").[47] The LC-2 and LC-3 are more colloquially referred to as the petit confort and grand confort (abbreviation of full title, and due to respective sizes). The LC-2 (and similar LC-3) have been featured in a variety of media, notably the Maxell "blown away" advertisement.[48]

In the year 1964, while Le Corbusier was still alive, Cassina S.p.A. of Milan acquired the exclusive worldwide rights to manufacture his furniture designs. Today many copies exist, but Cassina is still the only manufacturer authorized by the Fondation Le Corbusier; see US page. Today, some productions of the original furniture designs are considered very valuable to art collectors and are often sold in major auction houses.


In the 1930s, Le Corbusier associated with the Faisceau of Georges Valois and Hubert Lagardelle and briefly edited the syndicalist and fascist journals Plans, Prélude and L'Homme Réel. He was as well engaged in the first group to call itself fascist in France as per 1925: Valois' militant breakout-group Faisceau des Combattants et producteurs, the blue shirts, inspired by the fasci of Mussolini.[49] In 1934, he lectured in Rome on architecture, by invitation of Benito Mussolini. He sought out a position in urban planning in the Vichy regime and received an appointment on a committee studying urbanism. He drew up plans for the redesign of Algiers in which he criticized the perceived differences in living standards between Europeans and Africans in the city, describing a situation in which "the civilised live like rats in holes" yet "the barbarians live in solitude, in well-being."[50] These and plans for the redesign of other cities were ultimately ignored. After this defeat, Le Corbusier largely eschewed politics.

The politics of Lagardelle and Valois included elements of fascism, anti-semitism, and ultra-nationalism and Le Corbusier's own affiliation with the before mentioned is well known. Mark Antliff suggests that Le Corbusier was a well-aware contributor to the aesthetic dimension of fascist myth-making.[51] Le Corbusier never admitted his views directly, but he numerous times argued for authoritarian planning as means of revolution.

A Le Corbusier researcher, Marc Perelman says: "His ideas—his urban planning and his architecture—are viewed separately," Perelman noted, "whereas they are one and the same thing."[52]

In La Ville radieuse, he conceives an essentially apolitical society, in which the bureaucracy of economic administration effectively replaces the state.[53]

Le Corbusier was heavily indebted to the thought of the 19th-century French utopians Saint-Simon and Charles Fourier. There is a noteworthy resemblance between the concept of the unité and Fourier's phalanstery.[54] From Fourier, Le Corbusier adopted at least in part his notion of administrative, rather than political, government.


Prior to a referendum held in October 1940 by the Vichy government, Le Corbusier is quoted expressing his hatred of Jews in a letter to his mother: "The Jews are having a bad time. I occasionally feel sorry. But it appears their blind lust for money has rotted the country".[55]


Since his death, Le Corbusier's contribution has been hotly contested, as the architecture values and its accompanying aspects within modern architecture vary, both between different schools of thought and among practising architects.[56] At the level of building, his later works expressed a complex understanding of modernity's impact, yet his urban designs have drawn scorn from critics.

Technological historian and architecture critic Lewis Mumford wrote in Yesterday's City of Tomorrow that the extravagant heights of Le Corbusier's skyscrapers had no reason for existence apart from the fact that they had become technological possibilities. The open spaces in his central areas had no reason for existence either, Mumford wrote, since on the scale he imagined there was no motive during the business day for pedestrian circulation in the office quarter. By "mating utilitarian and financial image of the skyscraper city to the romantic image of the organic environment, Le Corbusier had, in fact, produced a sterile hybrid."

The public housing projects influenced by his ideas are seen by some as having had the effect of isolating poor communities in monolithic high-rises and breaking the social ties integral to a community's development. One of his most influential detractors has been Jane Jacobs, who delivered a scathing critique of Le Corbusier's urban design theories in her seminal work The Death and Life of Great American Cities.


Gustavo Capanema Palace, Rio de Janeiro (Brazil)

Le Corbusier was at his most influential in the sphere of urban planning, and was a founding member of the Congrès International d'Architecture Moderne (CIAM). One of the first to realize how the automobile would change human agglomerations, Le Corbusier described the city of the future as consisting of large apartment buildings isolated in a park-like setting on pilotis. Le Corbusier's theories were adopted by the builders of public housing in Europe and the United States. In Great Britain urban planners turned to Le Corbusier's "Cities in the Sky" as a cheaper method of providing public housing from the late 1950s.[57] For the design of the buildings themselves, Le Corbusier criticized any effort at ornamentation. The large spartan structures in cities, but not 'of' cities, have been widely criticized for being boring and unfriendly to pedestrians.

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. Lúcio Costa's city plan of Brasília and the industrial city of Zlín planned by František Lydie Gahura in the Czech Republic are notable plans based on his ideas, while the architect himself produced the plan for Chandigarh in India. Le Corbusier's thinking also had profound effects on the philosophy of city planning and architecture in the Soviet Union, particularly in the Constructivist era.

Le Corbusier was heavily influenced by problems he saw in industrial cities at the turn of the 20th century. He thought that industrial housing techniques led to crowding, dirtiness, and a lack of a moral landscape. He was a leader of the modernist movement to create better living conditions and a better society through housing concepts. Ebenezer Howard's Garden Cities of Tomorrow heavily influenced Le Corbusier and his contemporaries.

Le Corbusier also harmonized and lent credence to the idea of space as a set of destinations which mankind moved between, more or less continuously. He was therefore able to give credence and credibility to the automobile (as a transporter); and most importantly to freeways in urban spaces. 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's ideas also sanctioned further destruction of traditional urban spaces to build freeways that connected this new urbanism to low density, low cost (and highly profitable), suburban and rural locales which were free to be developed as middle class single-family (dormitory) housing.

Notably missing from this scheme of movement were connectivity between isolated urban villages created for lower-middle and working classes and other destination points in Le Corbusier's plan: suburban and rural areas, and urban commercial centers. This was because, as designed, the freeways traveled over, at, or beneath grade levels of the living spaces of the urban poor (one modern example: the Cabrini–Green housing project in Chicago). Such projects and their areas, having no freeway exit ramps, cut off by freeway rights-of-way, became isolated from jobs and services concentrated at Le Corbusier's nodal transportation end points. As jobs increasingly moved to the suburban end points of the freeways, urban village dwellers found themselves without convenient freeway access points in their communities and without public mass transit connectivity that could economically reach suburban job centers. Very late in the Post-War period, suburban job centers found this to be such a critical problem (labor shortages) that they, on their own, began sponsoring urban-to-suburban shuttle bus services between urban villages and suburban job centers, to fill working class and lower-middle class jobs which had gone wanting, and which did not normally pay the wages that car ownership required.

Le Corbusier had a great influence on architects and urbanists all the world. In the United States, Shadrach Woods; in Spain, Francisco Javier Sáenz de Oiza; in Brazil, Oscar Niemeyer; In Mexico, Mario Pani Darqui; in Chile, Roberto Matta; in Argentina, Antoni Bonet i Castellana (a Catalan exile), Juan Kurchan, Jorge Ferrari Hardoy, Amancio Williams, and Clorindo Testa in his first era; in Uruguay, the professors Justino Serralta and Carlos Gómez Gavazzo; in Colombia, Germán Samper Gnecco, Rogelio Salmona, and Dicken Castro; in Peru, Abel Hurtado and José Carlos Ortecho.

Fondation Le Corbusier[edit]

Le Corbusier, work reproduced in Život 2 (1922)

The Fondation Le Corbusier is a private foundation and archive honoring the work of Le Corbusier. It operates Maison La Roche, a museum located in the 16th arrondissement at 8–10, square du Dr Blanche, Paris, France, which is open daily except Sunday.

The foundation was established in 1968. It now owns Maison La Roche and Maison Jeanneret (which form the foundation's headquarters), as well as the apartment occupied by Le Corbusier from 1933 to 1965 at rue Nungesser et Coli in Paris 16e, and the "Small House" he built for his parents in Corseaux on the shores of Lac Leman (1924).

Maison La Roche and Maison Jeanneret (1923–24), also known as the La Roche-Jeanneret house, is a pair of semi-detached houses that was Le Corbusier's third commission in Paris. They are laid out at right angles to each other, with iron, concrete, and blank, white façades setting off a curved two-story gallery space. Maison La Roche is now a museum containing about 8,000 original drawings, studies and plans by Le Corbusier (in collaboration with Pierre Jeanneret from 1922 to 1940), as well as about 450 of his paintings, about 30 enamels, about 200 other works on paper, and a sizable collection of written and photographic archives. It describes itself as the world's largest collection of Le Corbusier drawings, studies, and plans.[42][58]


  • In 1937 Le Corbusier was named Chevalier of the Légion d'honneur. In 1945 he was promoted to Officiers of the Légion d'honneur. In 1952 he was promoted to Commandeur of the Légion d'honneur. Finally, on 2 July 1964 Le Corbusier was named Grand Officiers of the Légion d'honneur.[1]
  • He received the Frank P. Brown Medal and AIA Gold Medal in 1961.
  • The University of Cambridge awarded Le Corbusier an honorary degree in June 1959.[59]

World Heritage Site[edit]

In 2016, seventeen of Le Corbusier's buildings, spanning over seven countries, were inscribed to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list, reflecting "outstanding contribution to the Modern Movement".[60]


Le Corbusier's portrait was featured on the 10 Swiss francs banknote, pictured with his distinctive eyeglasses.

The following place-names carry his name:


Assembly building (1955), Chandigarh, India
Secretariat building (1953), Chandigarh, India

Books by Le Corbusier[edit]

  • 1918: Après le cubisme (After Cubism), with Amédée Ozenfant
  • 1923: Vers une architecture (Towards an Architecture) (frequently mistranslated as "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: Aircraft
  • 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 Trois établissements 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)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Ministère de la Culture et de la Communication, Archives nationales; site de Fontainebleau, Légion d'honneur recipient, birth certificate
  2. ^ "The Architectural Work of Le Corbusier, an Outstanding Contribution to the Modern Movement". Retrieved 2016-10-14. 
  3. ^ a b Journel 2015, p. 32.
  4. ^ Marc Solitaire, Le Corbusier et l'urbain - la rectification du damier froebelien, p 93-117
  5. ^ Actes du colloque La ville et l'urbanisme après Le Corbusier, éditions d'en Haut 1993 - ISBN 2-88251-033-0
  6. ^ Marc Solitaire, Le Corbusier entre Raphael et Fröbel, p 9-27, Journal d'histoire de l'architecture N°1, Presses universitaires de Grenoble 1988 - ISBN 2-7061-0325-6
  7. ^ Le Corbusier, L'Art déecoratif d'aujourdhui (1925), pg. 198
  8. ^ Cited by Jean Petit, Le Corbusier lui-meme, Rousseau, Geneva 1970, page 28
  9. ^ Journel 2015, p. 49.
  10. ^ Journel 2015, p. 48.
  11. ^ Letter to Eplattenier in Dumont, Le Corbusier, Lettres a ses maitres, vol. 2, pg. 82-83
  12. ^ a b Journel 2015, pp. 32-33.
  13. ^ Journel 2015, pp. 48-9.
  14. ^ a b Choay, Françoise (1960). Le Corbusier. George Braziller, Inc. pp. 10–11. ISBN 0-8076-0104-7. (subscription required (help)). 
  15. ^ Letter to Auguste Perret (1915), cited in Lettres a ces Maitres, vol. 1, pg. 33
  16. ^ Tim Benton, Les Villas de Le Corbusier 1920-1929, Philippe Sers éd. Paris, 1987
  17. ^ cited by Turner, Paul, "La Formation de Le Corbusier", Paris, Macula, 1987, page 218.
  18. ^ Journel 2015, p. 50-51.
  19. ^ cited in Lettres a css maitres, volume 1, page 181.
  20. ^ Journel 2015, p. 50.
  21. ^ Charles Édouard Jeanneret, dit Le Corbusier, larousse.fr
  22. ^ Le Corbusier, choix de lettres, 161 note 1
  23. ^ Repères biographiques, Fondation Le Corbusier
  24. ^ Le Corbusier, Vers une architecture", (1923), Flammarion edition (1995), pages XVIII-XIX
  25. ^ Journet 2015, p. 36.
  26. ^ a b Arwas 1992, p. 46.
  27. ^ Arwas 1992, p. 49.
  28. ^ Le Corbusier, L'art décoratif d'aujourd'hui, (originally 1925, Flammarion edition of 1996, ISBN+978-2-0812-2062-1
  29. ^ Le Corbusier, p. 98.
  30. ^ a b Le Corbusier 1925, p. 70-81.
  31. ^ Benton, Charlotte, Benton, Tim, Wood, Ghislaine, Art Déco dans le monde- 1910-39, 2010, Renaissance du Livre, ISBN 9782507003906, pages 16-17
  32. ^ Journel 2015, p. 37.
  33. ^ a b Bony, p. 83.
  34. ^ Evenson, Norma (1969). Le Corbusier: The Machine and the Grand Design. New York: George Braziller. p. 7. 
  35. ^ "American Colossus: the Grain Elevator 1843–1943". Colossus Books. 11 January 2013. ISBN 978-0578012612. 
  36. ^ Antliff, Mark (1997). La cité Francais: George Valois, Le corbusier, and Facsist Theories of Urbanism. Princeton University Press. 
  37. ^ Le Corbusier. Urbanism 1. p. 39. 
  38. ^ Fishman, Robert (1982). Urban Utopias in the Twentieth Century: Ebenezer Howard, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Le Corbusier. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press. p. 231. Retrieved 2014-03-18. 
  39. ^ Dalrymple, Theodore (Autumn 2009). "The Architect as Totalitarian: Le Corbusier's baleful influence". City Journal. 19 (4). Retrieved 2014-03-18. 
  40. ^ Fishman 1982, pp. 244–246.
  41. ^ "Le Corbusier plus facho que fada". Liberation. 18 March 2015. Retrieved 2015-03-23. 
  42. ^ a b "Foundation: History". Fondation Le Corbusier. Retrieved 2014-03-18. 
  43. ^ "Our Most Frequently Requested Prominent Artists". Artists Rights Society. 2003. Retrieved 2014-03-18. 
  44. ^ Donadio, Rachel (July 12, 2015). "New York Times". nytimes.com. 
  45. ^ Padovan, Richard (2 November 1999). Proportion: Science, Philosophy, Architecture. Taylor & Francis. p. 320. ISBN 0-419-22780-6. from Le Corbusier, The Modulor p.35: "Both the paintings and the architectural designs make use of the golden section." 
  46. ^ padovan 1999, p. 316.
  47. ^ "Le Corbusier Classics LC2, LC3 and LC4 Get Colorful, Courtesy Of Cassina". ifitshipitshere.blogspot.com. 27 July 2010. Retrieved 2014-03-18. 
  48. ^ Hannibal, John (17 October 2012). "The iconic Maxell tape advertisement". AV Adviser. Retrieved 2014-03-18. 
  49. ^ Brott, Simone (2013). "In the Shadow of the Enlightenment Le Corbusier, Le Faisceau and Georges Valois". Proceedings of the Society of Architectural Historians, Australia and New Zealand. 2 (30): 777–789. 
  50. ^ Celik, Zeynep (28 July 1997). Urban Forms and Colonial Confrontations: Algiers under French Rule. University of California Press. p. 4. ISBN 978-0520204577. Retrieved 2014-03-18. 
  51. ^ Antliff, Mark (2007). Avant-Garde Fascism: The Mobilization of Myth, Art, and Culture in France, 1909-1939. Duke University Press. pp. 149–153. 
  52. ^ Munro, Cait (April 17, 2005). "New Books Claim Le Corbusier Was a Fascist". Artnet news. 
  53. ^ Fishman 1982, p. 228.
  54. ^ Serenyi, Peter (December 1967). "Le Corbusier, Fourier, and the Monastery of Ema". The Art Bulletin. 49 (4): 282. doi:10.2307/3048487. 
  55. ^ Perelman, Marc. Vers une politique de l'architecture. p. 2. 
  56. ^ Holm, Ivar (2006). Ideas and Beliefs in Architecture and Industrial design: How attitudes, orientations, and underlying assumptions shape the build environment. Oslo School of Architecture and Design. ISBN 82-547-0174-1. 
  57. ^ http://www.pash-living.co.uk/blog/contemporary-designers/le-corbusier-enfant-terrible-of-modernist-architecture.html
  58. ^ "Musée: Fondation Le Corbusier - Maison La Roche". Paris Convention and Visitors Bureau. Retrieved 2014-03-18. 
  59. ^ "About the Faculty". University of Cambridge. Retrieved 2014-03-18. 
  60. ^ "The Architectural Work of Le Corbusier, an Outstanding Contribution to the Modern Movement". UNESCO World Heritage Centre. United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. Retrieved 18 July 2016. 


  • Arwas, Victor (1992). Art Deco. Harry N. Abrams Inc. ISBN 0-8109-1926-5. 
  • Sarbjit Bahga, Surinder Bahga (2014) Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret: The Indian Architecture, CreateSpace, ISBN 978-1495906251
  • Bony, Anne (2012). L'Architecture moderne. Larousse. ISBN 978-2-03-587641-6. 
  • Behrens, Roy R. (2005). Cook Book: Gertrude Stein, William Cook and Le Corbusier. Dysart, Iowa: Bobolink Books. ISBN 0-9713244-1-7.
  • Brooks, H. Allen (1999) Le Corbusier's Formative Years: Charles-Edouard Jeanneret at La Chaux-de-Fonds, Paperback Edition, University of Chicago Press, ISBN 0-226-07582-6
  • Eliel, Carol S. (2002). L'Esprit Nouveau: Purism in Paris, 1918 – 1925. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc. ISBN 0-8109-6727-8
  • Curtis, William J.R. (1994) Le Corbusier: Ideas and Forms, Phaidon, ISBN 978-0-7148-2790-2
  • Frampton, Kenneth. (2001). Le Corbusier, London, Thames and Hudson.
  • Jencks, Charles (2000) Le Corbusier and the Continual Revolution in Architecture, The Monacelli Press, ISBN 978-1-58093-077-2
  • Jornod, Naïma and Jornod, Jean-Pierre (2005) Le Corbusier (Charles Edouard Jeanneret), catalogue raisonné de l'oeuvre peint, Skira, ISBN 88-7624-203-1
  • Journel, Guillemette Morel (2015). Le Corbusier- Construire la Vie Moderne (in French). Editions du Patrimoine: Centre des Monument Nationaux. ISBN 978-2-7577-0419-6. 
  • Le Corbusier (1925). L'Art décoratif d'aujourdhui (in French). G. Crés et Cie. 
  • Le Corbusier (1923). Vers use architecture (in French). Flammarion (1995). ISBN 978-2-0812-1744-7. 
  • Dumont, Marie-Jeanne, ed. (2002). Le Corbusier- Lettres a ses maitres (in French). Editions du Linteau. 
  • Solitaire, Marc (2016) Au retour de La Chaux-de-Fonds: Le Corbusier & Froebel, editions Wiking, ISBN 978-2-9545239-1-0
  • Von Moos, Stanislaus (2009) Le Corbusier: Elements of A Synthesis, Rotterdam, 010 Publishers.
  • Weber, Nicholas Fox (2008) Le Corbusier: A Life, Alfred A. Knopf, ISBN 0-375-41043-0

External links[edit]