Le Corbusier

views updated May 11 2018

Corbusier Le


Born Charles-Edouard Jeanneret, October 6, 1887, in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland; died of a heart attack August 27, 1965, in Cap Martin, France; immigrated to France, 1917, naturalized citizen, 1930; adopted name Le Corbusier, 1920. Education: Attended School of Applied Arts (La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland), 1900-05.


Architect, artist, and author. Worked in architectural offices of Josef Hoffman, Vienna, Austria, 1907, Auguste Perret, Paris, France, and (with Walter Gropius and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe) Peter Behrens, Berlin, Germany, 1910; worked as a painter and lithographer from 1912; architect in Paris, 1917-65, in partnership with cousin, Pierre Jeannert, 1922-40, and in collaboration with Charlotte Perriand, 1927-29; co-founder and editor, with Amedee Ozenfant and Paul Dermee, of L'Esprit Nouveau (journal), Paris, 1919-25; founder, International Congress for Modern Architecture (CIAM), 1928. Lectured extensively in Europe and United States, 1921-56.

Awards, Honors

Gold Medal, Royal Institute of British Architects, 1959.


Feuille d'avis de La Chaux-de-Fonds, [La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland], 1911.

Etude sur le mouvement d'art decoratif en Allemagne, [Paris, France,], 1912.

Amedee Ozenfant, [Paris, France], 1918.

(With Amedee Ozenfant) Architecture d'epoque machiniste, [Paris, France], 1918.

Vers une architecture, [Paris, France], 1923, revised edition, 1924, translated as Toward a New Architecture, 1931, Praeger (New York, NY), 1970.

Urbanisme, [Paris, France], 1925, published as The City of Tomorrow and Its Planning, Harcourt (New York, NY), 1929, revised as Urbanisme, Nouvelle Edition, preface by Jean Cassou, Vincent, Freal (Paris, France), 1966.

L'Art decoratif d'aujourd'hui, [Paris, France], 1925, published as The Decorative Art of Today, translated and introduced by James I. Dunnett, MIT Press (Cambridge, MA), 1987.

(With Amedee Ozenfant) La Peinture moderne, [Paris, France], 1925.

Almanach d'architecture moderne, [Paris, France], 1927.

Une maison-un palais, [Paris, France], 1928.

Oeuvre complete, edited by W. Boesiger, eight volumes, [New York, NY], 1929n—65.

Precisions sur un etat present de l'architecture et de l'urbanisme, G. Pres (Paris, France), 1930, published as Precisions on the Present State of Architecture and City Planning: With an American Prologue, a Brazilian Corollary Followed by "The Temperature of Paris" and "The Atmosphere of Moscow," translated by Edith Schreiber Aujame, MIT Press (Cambridge, MA), 1991.

Croisade; ou, le crepuscule des academies, [Paris, France], 1932.

La ville Radieuse, [Paris, France], 1935, published as The Radiant City, [New York, NY], 1935.

Aircraft, [New York, NY], 1935.

Quand les cathedrales etaient blanches, Plon (Paris, France), 1937, published as When the Cathedrals Were White, [New York, NY], 1947.

Des canons, des munitions?n—merci! Des logis . . . S. V. P.!, [Paris, France], 1938.

Destin de [Paris], avec des illustrations de l'auteur, F. Forlot (Paris, France), 1941.

Sur les quatres routes, [Paris, France], 1941, published as The Four Routes, [London, England], 1947.

Les constructions murondins, [Paris, France], 1941.

(With François de Pierrefeu) La maison des hommes, [Paris, France], 1942, translation published as The Home of Man, [London, England], 1948.

Entretien avec les etudiants des écoles d'architecture, [Paris, France], 1943, published as Le Corbusier Talks with Students from the Schools of Architecture, [New York, NY], 1961.

La charte d'Athenes, [Paris, France], 1943, published as The Athens Charter, translated by Anthony Eardley, introduction by Jean Giraudoux, Grossman, 1973.

Les trois etablissements humains, [Paris, France], 1944, translated by Eulie Chowdhury as The Three Human Establishments, Punjab Government (Chandigarh), 1979.

Propos d'urbanisme, [Paris, France], 1946, published as Concerning Town Planning, [London, England], 1947.

U.N. Headquarters, [New York, NY], 1947.

New World of Space, Reynal & Hitchcock (New York, NY), 1948.

La grille CIAM d'urbanisme, [Paris, France], 1948.

Le modulor 1948, [Paris, France], 1950, published as The Modulor: A Harmonious Measure to the Human Scale Universally Applicable to Architecture and Mechanics, translated by P. de Francia and A. Bostock, 2nd edition, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 1954.

Poesie sur Alger, [Paris, France], 1950.

L' d'habitation de Marseille, [Paris, France], 1950, published as The Marseilles Block, [London, England], 1950.

Une petite maison, Girsberger (Zurich, Switzerland), 1954.

Modulor 2, 1955 (Let the User Speak Next), [Paris, France], 1955, translated by P. de Francia and A. Bostock, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 1958.

Le poéme de l'angle droit, Teriade (Paris, France), 1955.

Architecte du bonheur, [Paris, France], 1955.

La chapelle Notre-Dame-du-Haut a Ronchamp, [Paris, France], 1956, published as The Chapel at Ronchamp, Praeger (New York, NY), 1957.

Les plans de Le Corbusier de Paris, 1922-1956, [Paris, France], 1958.

(With others) Le poéme electronique, [Brussels, Belgium], 1958.

L'atelier de la recherche patiente, [Paris, France], 1960.

Petites confidences, [Paris, France], 1960.

My Work, [London, England], 1960.

Mise au point, [Paris, France], 1966, translated by Ivan Zaknic as The Final Testament of Pere Corbu: A Translation and Interpretation of "Mise au point," Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 1997.

Le Voyage d'orient, Editions Forces Vives (Paris, France), 1966, translation published as The Journey to the East, edited and annotated by Ivan Zaknic, with Nicole Pertuiset, [France], 1966, MIT Press (Cambridge, MA), 1987.

L'urbanisme est une clef, Editions Forces Vives (Paris, France), 1966.

Gaudi, [Barcelona, Spain], 1967.

Le Corbusier, 1910-65, edited by W. Boesiger and H. Girsberger, Praeger (New York, NY), 1967.

Les maternelles vous parlent, [New York, NY], 1968.

Le Corbusier Sketch books, Volume 1: 1914-1948, MIT Press (Cambridge, MA), 1981.

The Ideas of Le Corbusier on Architecture and Urban Planning, edited by Jacques Guiton, translated by Margaret Guiton, Braziller (New York, NY), 1981.

Le Corbusier: Selected Drawings, Rizzoli (New York, NY), 1982.

The Le Corbusier Archive from the Foundation Le Corbusier, Paris, [New York, NY], 1990.


Charles-Edouard Jeanneret, better known to the world as Le Corbusier, was "arguably the architect of the 20th century," according to A. Peter Fawcett in the International Dictionary of Architects and Architecture. "Le Corbusier was one of the 20th century's most important architects, whose cerebral and provocative designs are still poorly understood by most non-architects," explained Jan Otakar Fischer in the International Herald Tribune. As Witold Rybczynski noted in Time magazine, "Le Corbusier dominated the architectural world, from that halcyon year of 1920, when he started publishing his magazine L'Esprit Nouveau, until his death in 1965." Inspired by classical Greek architecture and the modern machine age, the Swiss-born architectural theorist argued that the ideal house should be a "machine for living." As a proponent of the International Style in architecture, Le Corbusier sought to build simple, functional buildings with designs that were geometrical and contained little ornamentation. His efforts at urban design, while influential in that field, were too often colossal failures in practice. Michael Kimmelman, writing in U.S. News and World Report, noted that, "ironically, on the occasion of Le Corbusier's 100th birthday, his influence as an urban designer remains strongm—as the standard of what went wrong with our cities."

Charles-Edouard Jeanneret was born October 6, 1887, in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland. His father worked at a watch factory, while his mother taught piano. At the age of fifteen, he enrolled at a local trade school where he hoped to learn watchcase engraving. A teacher encouraged him to think about becoming an architect instead, and after leaving school, he traveled widely in Germany, Greece, and Eastern Europe. The Journey to the East contains the young Jeanneret's journal, written during his travels in Greece; the entries show that this experience solidified his ambition to become an architect. Reviewers agreed that the most powerful section of the book comes near the end, when the young would-be architect stands in front of the Parthenon in Athens. Peter Kaufman, writing in Library Journal, called The Journey to the East "a thrilling visual and verbal document of early modern architecture."

Gains Standing as Visionary

Determined now to undertake the study of architecture, Le Corbusier moved to Paris to study under French architect Auguste Pierret. During this period, the early 1920s, he adopted the name Le Corbusier, a variation on his maternal grandfather's name, and continued to use it for the rest of his life. As Rybczynski explained: "Jeanneret had been a small-town architect; Le Corbusier was a visionary. He believed that architecture had lost its way. Art Nouveau, all curves and sinuous decorations, had burned itself out in a brilliant burst of exuberance; the seductive Art Deco style promised to do the same. The Arts and Crafts movement had adherents all over Europe, but as the name implies, it was hardly representative of an industrial age. Le Corbusier maintained that this new age deserved abrandnew architecture. 'We must start again from zero,' he proclaimed."

The style Le Corbusier developed and advocated in the 1920s and 1930s has since been dubbed the International Style. Typical of this architectural style was the Maison-Domino, designed by Le Corbusier as a building that, with its free-standing pillars and concrete floors, could be mass produced. As publisher of the journal L'Esprit Nouveau, Le Corbusier wrote many articles in which he propounded his theories, not only on architecture, but on large urban-development projects as well. Martin Filler, writing in the New York Review of Books, described Le Corbusier's urban plans this way: "Intentionally provocative, Le Corbusier's chilling visions of tall, uniform towers widely spaced amid vast green-swards and reached by broad superhighways are among the most unforgettablem—and misunderstoodm—images in all of twentieth-century architecture."

One of Le Corbusier's most important writings is Versune architecture, a work first published in 1923. "It was to be arguably the single most influential text upon subsequent generations of architects, extolling in its uniquely messianic style an architecture embracing on the one hand the latest technology but also the definitive lessons of antiquity," explained Fawcett. New Republic contributor Joseph Rykwert concurred, noting of Vers une architecture that for many decades following its publication it was "many an aspiring student's introduction to the essence of architecture."

Futuristic Vision of Urban Life

Among Le Corbusier's most praised buildings is the Villa Savoye, in Poissy, France. Commissioned by an insurance executive, the two-story white structure has thin pillars supporting the upper floor, ribbon windows, a roof garden, spiral staircases and ramps, an open floor plan, and built-in furniture. Fawcett described the Villa Savoye as "one of the truly seminal buildings in the annals of modern architecture." Another of Le Corbusier's most influential works is the Unité d'Habitation, in Marseilles, France. A twelve-story apartment building capable of housing 1,600 people, the building makes use of a modular system developed by Le Corbusier. The building is essentially a concrete and steel framework; the individual apartments, premade in a factory, were simply slid into their respective slots and bolted into the structure. Fawcett called the Unité d'Habitation "a utopian model for postwar mass housing."

Le Corbusier's publications on urban planning include The City of Tomorrow and Its Planning, which outlines his early city-planning theories, based on his plan for the City of Three Million and Plan Voisin for Paris. A reader of the 1972 MIT Press edition "can now look with disbelief, amusement, and even anger" at the author's sweeping proposals for the problems of modern urban life, even while his analysis of what those problems are "remains cogent," according to a reviewer for Choice. In 1968, Le Corbusier's seminal La ville radieuse appeared in English as The Radiant City. The book contains descriptions and diagrams of the urban plans Le Corbusier painstakingly developed for Paris, Geneva, Algiers, Moscow, Stockholm, and other major cities, none of which were carried out. Each plan called for the construction of multi-storey apartment buildings housing 2,700 inhabitants each and connected by raised walkways. Wide expanses of green space would separate the buildings, and wide, raised roadways would carry automobile traffic without disturbing the natural habitat.

A futurist, Le Corbusier also set forth his vision of the way daily life would be in his planned city. Each apartment building would include a kitchen where all meals for the residents would be prepared and distributed for free. All laundry services would be likewise free. Child-care facilities would be run by state-trained professionals who would raise the residents' children. For a contributor to the Times Literary Supplement, The Radiant City serves as an example of "the pathology of urban utopianism in our time."

While few of Le Corbusier's urban planning designs were ever built, his ideas had an enormous effect on the field of architecture. Supporters argue that the many failures in public housing inspired by the Swiss architect's ideas are due to their being misunderstood by others. Perhaps Le Corbusier's largest project was the design for Chandigarh, India. Following the partition that created the separate nations of India and Pakistan, there was a need for a new capitol city in the Indian province of Punjab. Le Corbusier was called upon to design that new city, which was named Chandigarh. A grid pattern of streets forms much of his plan, with the north area reserved for government buildings. Le Corbusier designed those buildings himself.

A Mixed Legacy

Unfortunately, Le Corbusier's designs did not take into account Indian weather or the buildings' practical use. Courtrooms in the justice building bake in the Indian sun, while special sun-breakers designed into the buildings and meant to block the harsh light only manage to absorb the heat. Le Corbusier also designed great empty spaces between the government buildings, symbolically separating the government powers they embody; as a result, office workers have had to walk great distances in the afternoon sun to get from one building to another. Charles Correa commented on the Sampark Web site: "Was Le Corbusier perhaps more concerned with the visual expression of climate control than with its actual effectiveness? In any event, his enthusiasm seemed to lie not in solving the problem but in making the theatrical gesturem—assuming the heroic posem—of addressing it." Peter Davey in the Architectural Review concluded that "the Capitol is flawed by the absurdity of gargantuan scale, daft indifference to function, and total ignorance of construction."

Rybczynski has interpreted Le Corbusier's "urban vision" to be "authoritarian, inflexible and simplistic. Wherever it was triedm—in Chandigarh by Le Corbusier himself or in Brasilia by his followersm—it failed. Standardization proved in human and disorienting. The open spaces were inhospitable; the bureaucratically imposed plan, socially destructive." Unfortunately, despite such drawbacks, the architect's designs became the model for many of the urban renewal programs and public-housing developments constructed in the United States during the 1950s and 1960s. These projects, Rybczynski stated, "damaged the urban fabric beyond repair."

Volumes containing selected writings and architectural renderings from Le Corbusier's vast oeuvre began appearing in the 1980s. Le Corbusier: Selected Drawings reproduces 240 drawings pertaining to twenty buildings and contains information about each building. Volume 1 of Le Corbusier Sketchbooks, covering the years 1914 to 1948, reproduces thirteen of the architect's sketchbooks and reveals "a slightly differentm— and more accessiblem—side of the architect," according to H. Ward Jandl in Library Journal. Similarly, a reviewer for Choice remarked that this book offers a new "insight into the working mind of one of the [twentieth] century's greats." In 1981, editor Jacques Guiton offered a sampling of writings from Le Corbusier's thirty-eight published books, some of which appear in English translation for the first time in The Ideas of Le Corbusier on Architecture and Urban Planning.

While still considered one of the most important architects of the twentieth century, the years following Le Corbusier's death in 1965 have allowed an evaluation of his ideas based on what time has revealed, particularly concerning his urban-planning designs. Fawcett concluded: "As a form giver, he had been the single most influential figure in the development of 20th-century architecture, and accordingly has met with detractors. None deny the brilliance and authority of his individual buildings, particularly where there existed a well-prescribed brief. Rather their criticism has been leveled, albeit with some justification, at his deterministic view of town planning. In any event, to blame Le Corbusier for the abject failure of much postwar mass housing remains a grotesque caricature and does nothing to undermine his primacy in 20th-century architectural history."

Biographical and Critical Sources


Ahmedabad, 1953-1960, Garland, 1983.

Alazard, Jean, Le Corbusier, [Florence, Italy], 1951, [New York, NY], 1960.

Bacon, Mardges, Le Corbusier in America, MIT Press (Cambridge, MA), 2001.

Baker, Geoffrey H., Le Corbusier and the Articulation of Architectural Elements, [Newcastle, England],1971.

Baker, Geoffrey H., Le Corbusier: An Analysis of Form, Van Nostrand Reinghold (New York, NY), 1984.

Baker, Geoffrey H., Le Corbusier: Early Works at La Chaux-de-Fonds, St. Martin's Press (New York City), 1986.

Baker, Geoffrey H., Le Corbusier, the Creative Search: The Formative Years of Charles-Edouard Jeanneret, Van Nostrand (New York, NY), 1996.

Banham, Reyner, Theory and Design in the First Machine Age, [New York, NY], 1960.

Bardi, Pietro Maria, A Critical Review of Le Corbusier/Leitura critica de Le Corbusier, [São Paulo, Brazil],1950.

Besset, Maurice, Le Corbusier, [New York, NY], 1976.

Besset, Maurice, Qui etait Le Corbusier?, [Geneva, Switzerland], 1968, translated by Robin Kemball as Le Corbusier, Rizzoli (New York, NY), 1987.

Besset, Maurice, Le Corbusier: To Live with Light, [New York, NY], 1987.

Blake, Peter, Le Corbusier: Architecture and Form, Penguin (Harmonsdsworth, England), 1960.

Blake, Peter, Master Builders: Le Corbusier, Mies Van Der Rohe, Frank Lloyd Wright, Norton (New York, NY), 1960, new edition, 1996.

Boesiger, Willy, and Hans Girsberger, editors, Le Corbusier, 1910-65, Thames and Hudson (London, England), 1967.

Boesiger, Willy, Le Corbusier, [New York, NY], 1972.

Boudon, Philippe, Lived-in Architecture: Le Corbusier's Pessac Revisited, MIT Press (Cambridge, MA), 1972.

Brady, Darlene, Le Corbusier, An Annotated Bibliography, [New York, NY], 1985.

Brooks, H. Allen, editor, Le Corbusier Archive, 32 volumes, [New York, NY], 1982-84.

Brooks, H. Allen, editor, Le Corbusier, Princeton University Press (Princeton, NJ), 1987.

Brooks, H. Allen, Le Corbusier: The Garland Essays, Garland (New York, NY), 1990.

Brooks, H. Allen, Le Corbusier's Formative Years: Charles-Edouard Jeanneret at La Chaux-De-Fonds, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 1999.

Buildings and Projects, 1964-1965, Undated Projects, and Indices, Garland (New York, NY), 1984.

Cali, François, Architecture of Truth, [London, England], 1958.

Chandigarhm—Capitole, Garland (New York, NY), 1983.

Choay, Françoise, Le Corbusier, Brazilier (New York, NY), 1960.

Cité Fruges and Other Buildings and Projects, 1923-1927, Garland (New York, NY), 1983.

Curtis, William J. R., Le Corbusier: Evolution of His Architecture, [London, England], 1975.

Curtis, William J. R., Le Corbusier: Ideas and Forms, [New York, NY], 1986.

De Fusco, Renato, Le Corbusier: Designer Furniture (1929), Barron's (Woodbury, NY), 1977.

Eardley, Anthony, Le Corbusier and the Athens Charter, [New York, NY], 1973.

Eardley, Anthony, and Guillermo Jullian de la Fuente, Atelier rue de Sevres 35, [Lexington, KY], 1975.

Eardley, Anthony, and Jose Oubrerie, Le Corbusier's Firminy Church, [New York, NY], 1981.

Evenson, Norma, Chandigarh, [Berkeley, CA], 1966.

Evenson, Norma, Le Corbusier: The Machine and the Grand Design, Studio Vista (London, England), 1969.

If you enjoy the works of Le Corbusier

If you enjoy the works of Le Corbusier, you may also want to check out the following:

The work of the architects Mies van der Rohe, Walter Gropius, and Antonio Gaudi.

Fishman, Robert, Urban Utopias in the Twentieth Century: Ebenezer Howard, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Le Corbusier, Basic Books (New York, NY), 1977.

Four Great Makers of Modern Architecture: Gropius, Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe, Wright, [New York, NY], 1963.

Frampton, Kenneth, Le Corbusier: Architect of the Twentieth Century, Harry N. Abrams (New York, NY), 2002.

Frampton, Kenneth, and Yukio Futagawa, Modern Architecture: 1920-1945, [New York, NY], 1983.

Franclieu, Françoise de, Le Corbusier Sketchbooks, MIT Press (Cambridge, MA), 1981.

Gans, Deborah, The Le Corbusier Guide, Princeton Architectural Press (Princeton, NJ), 1989.

Gardiner, Stephen, Le Corbusier, Viking (New York, NY), 1974.

Guiton, Jacques, The Ideas of Le Corbusier on Architecture and Urban Planning, [New York, NY], 1930.

Henze, Anton, and Bernhard Moosbrugger, La Tourette: The Le Corbusier Monastery, Lund Humphries (London, England), 1966.

Herdeg, Klaus, The Decorated Design: Harvard Architecture and the Failure of the Bauhaus Legacy, [Cambridge, MA], 1984.

Herve, Lucien, Le Corbusier as Artist, as Writer, [Neuchatel, Switzerland], 1970.

Hoag, Edwin, and Joy Hoag, Masters of Modern Architecture: Frank Lloyd Wright, Le Corbusier, Mies Van Der Rohe, and Walter Gropius, [Indianapolis, IN], 1977.

International Dictionary of Architects and Architecture, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), pp. 494-500.

Jencks, Charles, Le Corbusier and the Tragic View of Architecture, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 1973.

Jencks, Charles, Le Corbusier and the Continual Revolution in Architecture, Monacelli Press (New York, NY), 2000.

Jenger, Jean, Le Corbusier: Architect, Painter, Poet, translated from the French by Caroline Beamish, Abrams (New York, NY), 1996.

Joray, Marcel, Le Corbusier: Artist and Writer, [New York, NY], 1970.

Jordan, Robert Furneaux, Le Corbusier, [New York, NY], 1971.

Jullian de la Fuente, Guillermo, The Venice Hospital Project of Le Corbusier, Wittenborn (New York, NY),1968.

Le Corbusier, Selected Drawings, Academy Editions (London, England), 1981.

Le Corbusier's Firminy Church, [New York, NY], 1981.

Le Modulor and Other Buildings and Projects, 1944-1945, Garland (New York, NY), 1983.

Marcus, George H., Le Corbusier: Inside the Machine for Living, Monacelli Press (New York, NY), 2000.

Moore, Richard A., Le Corbusier: Image and Symbol, [Atlanta, GA], 1977.

Palais des Soviets and Other Buildings and Projects, 1930, Garland (New York, NY), 1982.

Palazzolo, Carlo, and Vio Riccardo, editors, In the Footsteps of Le Corbusier, [New York, NY], 1991.

Papadaki, Stamo, editor, Le Corbusier: Architect, Painter, Writer, [New York, NY], 1948.

Pardo, Vittorio Franchetti, Le Corbusier, [Florence, Italy], 1966, [New York, NY], 1971.

Pawley, Martin, Le Corbusier, [New York, NY], 1970.

Project pour un stade olympique, Bagdad, and Other Buildings and Projects, 1953, Garland (New York, NY), 1984.

Project Roq et Rob, Roquebrune-Cap Martin, and Other Buildings and Projects, 1944-1950, Garland (New York, NY), 1983.

Risselada, M., editor, Raumplan versus Plan Libre: Adolf Loos and Le Corbusier, 1919-1930, [New York, NY], 1988.

Rowe, Colin, Mathematics of the Ideal Villa and Other Essays, 1976.

Sarkis, Hashim, editor, Case: Le Corbusier's Venice Hospital and the Mat Building Revival, Prestel Publishing, 2002.

Sekler, Eduard F., and William Curtis, Le Corbusier at Work: The Genesis of the Carpenter Center for Visual Arts, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 1978.

Sekler, Mary Patricia May, The Early Drawings of Charles-Edouard Jeanneret (Le Corbusier): 1902-1908, Garland (New York, NY), 1977.

Serenyi, Peter, editor, Le Corbusier in Perspective, Prentice-Hall (Englewood Cliffs, NJ), 1975.

Taylor, Brian Brace, Le Corbusier: The City of Refuge, Paris 1929/33, [Chicago, IL], 1987.

Turner, Paul Venable, The Education of Le Corbusier, [New York, NY], 1977.

Tzonis, Alexander, editor, Drawings from the Le Corbusier Archive, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY),1996.

Tzonis, Alexander, Le Corbusier: The Poetics of Machine and Metaphor, Universe Books, 2002.

Villa Savoye and Other Buildings and Projects, 1929-1930, Garland (New York, NY), 1984.

Vogt, Adolf Max, Le Corbusier, the Noble Savage: Toward an Archaeology of Modernism, MIT Press(Cambridge, MA), 1998.

Von Moos, Stanislaus, Le Corbusier: Elements of a Synthesis, [Cambridge, MA], 1979.

Von Moos, Stanislaus, and Arthur Ruegg, editors, Le Corbusier before Le Corbusier: Architectural Studies, Interiors, Painting, and Photography, 1907-1922, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 2002.

Walden, Russell, editor, The Open Hand: Essays on Le Corbusier, [Cambridge, MA], 1977.

West, John Petit, Four Compositions of Le Corbusier, [New York, NY], 1967.


American Artist, January, 1968, p. 16.

Architectural Review, February, 1999, Peter Davey, "Celebrating Chandigarh," p. 11.

Architecture, February, 1999, p. 88.

Art in America, summer, 1983, p. 21; July, 2003, Richard Francis, "Becoming Corbusier," p. 34.

Art Journal, fall, 1981, p. 275; summer, 1983, p. 203.

Booklist, October 1, 1970, p. 123.

Choice, November, 1966, p. 764; February, 1968, p. 1372; March, 1969, p. 47; April, 1969, p. 202; November, 1970, pp. 1225-1226; March, 1971, p. 54; November, 1972, p. 1122; July-August, 1974, p. 747; October, 1981, p. 228; January, 1982, p. 615; June, 1982, p. 1392; December, 1987, p. 609; September, 1991, p. 78; February, 1998, pp. 980-981.

Christian Science Monitor, June 14, 1972, p. 9; December 11, 1981, p. 15; August 7, 1987, p. B7.

Enc., September, 1970, p. 65.

Guardian Weekly, March 26, 1978, p. 14.

Inc., December, 1990, p. 149.

Interior Design, June, 1988, p. 200; August, 1993, p. 90; June, 1994, p. 35.

International Herald Tribune, May 12, 2005, Jan Otakar Fischer, "Le Corbusier, by Design."

Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, winter, 1970, p. 282.

Kirkus Reviews, August 1, 1973, p. 877; January 15, 1987, p. 111.

Library Journal, December 1, 1966, p. 5945; December 1, 1967, p. 4402; August, 1970, p. 2656; December 1, 1970, p. 4161; January 1, 1974, p. 49; July, 1981, p. 1408; March 1, 1987, p. 69.

Nation, June 17, 1968, pp. 797-799; August 1, 1987, pp. 99-100.

National Review, July 13, 1984, p. 40.

New Republic, January 18, 1988, p. 28; September 29, 1997, p. 38.

New Statesman, April 14, 1967, p. 517.

Newsweek, December 13, 1982, p. 101.

New York Review of Books, December 17, 1987, pp. 49-53.

New York Times Book Review, December 6, 1981, p. 90; January 17, 1982, p. 35; December 12, 1982, p. 12;July 12, 1987, p. 14.

Nexus Network Journal, winter, 2001, Michael J. Ostwald, review of The Modulor.

Partisan Review, summer, 1968, p. 451.

Progressive Architecture, December, 1993, p. 68; August, 1994, p. 74.

Publishers Weekly, August 21, 1981, p. 44; March 27, 1987, p. 42; April 17, 1987, p. 70.

Research and Reference Book News, fall, 1987, p. 27.

SciTech Book News, May, 1988, p. 33.

Studio, January, 1968, p. 52; July, 1970, p. 54; number 101, 1988, p. 62.

Time, June 8, 1998, Witold Rybczynski, "Le Corbusier: He Was Convinced That the Bold New Industrial Age Required an Equally Audacious Style of Architecture," p. 90.

Times Educational Supplement, January 17, 1992, p. 26.

Times Literary Supplement, June 15, 1967, p. 524; July 9, 1970, p. 757; February 5, 1971, p. 166; December 17, 1971, p. 1576; November 7, 1997, p. 16.

UPBN, September, 1991, p. 23.

U.S. News and World Report, March 30, 1987, Michael Kimmelman, "Urban Planning: What Went Wrong?," p. 76.

Wall Street Journal, August 4, 1987, p. 32.


Chandigarh Administration Web site,http://sampark.chd.nic.in/ (June 28, 2005), Charles Correa, "Chandigarh: The View from Benares."

University of Kentucky Center for Sustainable Cities Web site,http://www.uky.edu/ (June 28, 2005), Rachel Kennedy, "LeCorbusier and the Radiant City Contra."*

Le Corbusier

views updated May 29 2018

Le Corbusier

Le Corbusier (1887-1965), a Swiss architect, city planner, and painter who practiced in France, was one of the most influential architects of the 20th century.

Le Corbusier, the pseudonym for Charles Édouard Jeanneret-Gris, was born on Oct. 6, 1887, at La-Chaux-de-Fonds, where he attended the School of Fine Art until the age of 18 and was then apprenticed to an engraver. He studied architecture in Vienna with Josef Hoffmann (1908), in Paris with Auguste Perret (1908-1909), and in Berlin with Peter Behrens (1910-1911). In 1911 Le Corbusier traveled in the Balkans, Greece, Asia Minor, and Italy. The Acropolis in Athens and the sculpture of the 5th century B.C. by Phidias on the Parthenon made a great impression on him, as did Michelangelo's contributions to St. Peter's in Rome.

In 1904 Le Corbusier designed and built a small house at La-Chaux-de-Fonds, a building so picturesque that it would have fitted into the 18th-century hamlet at Versailles. Of the half-dozen villas that he built in his native town, one (1916) is as playful as any 16th-century mannerist structure by Sebastiano Serlio or Andrea Palladio. The dominating blank panel of the main facade of Le Corbusier's villa of 1916 relates to a similar motif that Palladio used on his own house in Vicenza, Italy, of 1572. Such a parallel between architects of the 16th and 20th centuries is relevant to an understanding of Le Corbusier. His system of geometric proportion, first used in the 1916 villa and expounded in two books, Le Modulor I (1950) and Le Modulor II (1955), follows in the tradition of Vitruvius, Leon Battista Alberti, and Palladio, and his concept of "modulor man" is an extension of Leonardo da Vinci's "Vitruvian man."

His Purism

The influence of Perret, Tony Garnier, and other architects became evident in Le Corbusier's 1915 Dom-ino project for prefabricated houses, a solution to spatial construction consisting of columns, floor slabs, and stair-cases for vertical circulation. To reduce a building to such simple elements was cubistic, and it was perhaps a preview of things to come in Paris, where Le Corbusier settled in 1917. Architectural commissions were slow in coming, and he turned to painting. He and Amédée Ozenfant evolved a form of cubism known as purism, in which they attempted to restore to ordinary objects their basic architectonic simplicity. Le Corbusier's Still Life (1920) depicts a bottle and other everyday objects; the bottle is seen from the side, above, and below. By fragmenting the bottle in such a manner, the viewer has a greater understanding of the bottle than a photograph or a realistic painting would provide. From 1920 to 1925 Ozenfant and Le Corbusier published the magazine L'Esprit nouveau, which preached purist theories.

This painterly expression of Le Corbusier influenced his architecture. The clean-cut planes and their relationships to the volume of a space of the Dom-into house and the Still Life bottle were combined in the Pavillon de l'Esprit Nouveau at the 1925 Paris International Exposition of Decorative Arts. Even the interior of the Chapel of Notre-Dame-du-Haut at Ronchamp (1950-1955) is cubist, since, like the bottle, it expresses more than what the eye can actually see. The 6-inch slit between the top of the walls and the roof suggests a continuation of the billowing ceiling shape beyond the external walls, and the undulating shapes of the walls suggest spaces which exist but which are cut off from the viewer.

Machine for Living

Le Corbusier's most influential book, Towards a New Architecture (1923), is illustrated with his sketches of the Acropolis in Athens and other sites, the architecture of Michelangelo, the "industrial city" of Tony Garnier, American grain silos, ships, airplanes, and automobiles. Under the diagram of a "Delage Front-Wheel Brake" is the caption: "This precision, this cleanness in execution go further back than our reborn mechanical sense. Phidias felt in this way: the entablature of the Parthenon is a witness." The perfection to be found in Phidias's sculpture on the Parthenon and in the front-wheel brake design for a Delage car was demanded by Le Corbusier for 20th-century architecture. A house would be a "machine for living," not reducing man to the level of an automaton but uplifting him by as precise an environment in totality as the precision of an automobile brake. Ventilation, sound insulation, sun-traps in winter, and sun shields (brises-soleil) in summer were all a part of this precision and of Le Corbusier's ideals for a total environment.

Collaboration with Jeanneret

From 1922 to 1940 Le Corbusier was in partnership with his cousin Pierre Jeanneret, and they collaborated on the project for the League of Nations Palace in Geneva (1927; not executed). The houses in the Weissenhof quarter of Stuttgart that they designed for the Deutsche Werkbund exposition (1927) were "perhaps the most imaginative structures at the Weissenhof" (Peter Blake, 1964). Le Corbusier's Centrosoyus (Palace of Light Industry) in Moscow (1929-1935) was one of the last major structures of post-World War I modern architecture in the Soviet Union.

Two notable villas designed by Le Corbusier are the Villa Monzie at Garches (1927), which derives its proportions, plan, and volumetric elements from Palladio's Villa Malcontenta of 1560, and the Villa Savoye at Poissy (1930), which incorporates the five tenets of his architecture: the piloti (freestanding structural column), the independence of the structural frame from the external skin, the free plan of the interior accommodation, the free elevation, and the roof garden.

City Planning

The Swiss Hostel (1931-1933) and the Brazilian Pavilion (1956-1959) at University City in Paris and the Unité d'Habitation in Marseilles (1947-1952) were designed as though they were part of Le Corbusier's projected Radiant City, just as Frank Lloyd Wright's post-1932 projects were for Broadacre City. The Unité d'Habitation, which is an enormous housing block, has a wide variety of apartments, lead-encased for sound insulation, with east-west ventilation, sun-trap balconies which let in the winter sun but exclude the summer sun, and access streets at every third floor. Pilotis raise the building off the ground to maximize open space for pedestrian use, which, in the Radiant City of 3 million people, would amount to 85 percent of the total area.

In the Voisin Plan for Paris (1925) Le Corbusier developed his urbanistic concepts, and thereafter he projected a score of plans for cities on four continents. Only one was realized, that for Chandigarh, the capital of the Punjab, India (begun 1953). Geometrically classical, Chandigarh is divided into different sectors: the Capital, consisting of the governor's palace (not built), the Parliament, the High Courts of Justice, and a ministries building; a commercial area; an industrial area; and a cultural center. Le Corbusier also designed the Open Hand monument, the democratic symbol of giving (that is, elected representatives are granted the privilege of giving good government in return).

Last Works and Influence

Le Corbusier's last major buildings were the Chapel at Ronchamp, one of the most personal and expressive statements by the architect, and the Dominican monastery of Ste-Marie-de-la-Tourette at Eveux-sur-Arbresle (1957-1959). On Aug. 27, 1965, Le Corbusier died of a heart attack at Cap-Martin.

The Ministry of Education and Health building in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (1936-1945), by Lúcio Costa and Oscar Niemeyer, for which Le Corbusier was the consultant, gave impetus to a slowly emerging modern movement in South America. His Maison Jaoul at Neuilly (1952-1956) spawned a movement termed the "new brutalism" in England, a country which had already accepted Le Corbusier's philosophy in spirit and had developed upon it. Kunio Mayekawa and Junzo Sakakura, who worked for Le Corbusier in Paris, returned to Japan to glorify the master. Le Corbusier's buildings have been an inspiration in whatever country they have been constructed, including his Carpenter Visual Arts Center (1961-1963) at Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass. He was the principal founder of the International Congress of Modern Architecture (CIAM) in 1928, which propagated the objectives of the new architecture; it was disbanded in 1959. He was also a prolific writer, and his books have been extremely influential.

Further Reading

An edition of Le Corbusier's Oeuvre complète was published in English (7 vols., 1910-1965; abr. ed., 1 vol., 1967). His Le Corbusier: Last Works, edited and with an introduction by Willy Boesiger (1970), brings his oeuvre up to date and includes a tribute by André Malraux as well as many excellent illustrations. Biographies of Le Corbusier include S. Papadaki, ed., Le Corbusier: Architect, Painter, Writer (1948); Jean Alazard, Le Corbusier (1960); Françoise Choay, Le Corbusier (1960); and Peter Blake, Le Corbusier: Architecture and Form (1964). Books about individual works are Norma Evenson, Chandigarh (1966) and Le Corbusier: The Machine and the Grand Design (1969), which lists all of Le Corbusier's city planning projects; Anton Henze, La Tourette (1966); and Maurice Besset, Who Was Le Corbusier? (1968). □

Le Corbusier

views updated May 09 2018

Le Corbusier (1887–1963) French architect, b. Switzerland as Charles Édouard Jeanneret. His early work exploited the qualities of reinforced concrete in cube-like forms. His Unité d'Habitation, Marseilles (1946–52), was a modular design widely adopted for modern mass housing. Later, Le Corbusier evolved a more poetic style, of which the highly sculptural Chapel of Notre-Dame-du-Haut at Ronchamp (1955) is the finest example. In the 1950s, he laid out the town of Chandigarh, India, and built its majestic Supreme Courts. His last major work was the Visual Arts Center at Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts (1963). His book Towards a New Architecture (1923) is a key text of the International style.


Corbusier, Le

views updated Jun 27 2018

Corbusier, Le See Le Corbusier

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