Swiss architect, designer, painter and urban planner, Le Corbusier (1887-1965), is regarded as one of the pioneers of modern architecture.
He was one of the best known architects of the 'Brutalist' architecture movement - a geometric style that was typified by its use of raw concrete. Buildings were often massive, bold, blocky and uncompromising in appearance. They also had many sculptural elements. The style became popular from the mid twentieth century as economically depressed communities post World War II sought cheaper construction methods for government buildings, housing and shopping centres.
Born Charles-Edouard Jeanneret-Gris in 1887, Le Corbusier grew up in the Swiss Jura region, the centre of watch making in the world.
After studying the art of enamelling and engraving watch faces during his early teenage years, he switched to architectural studies at the encouragement of his teacher Charles L’Eplattenier. At the age of 20, he designed his first house. He then travelled throughout Europe where he gained apprenticeships with various architects.
When he was 30, Le Corbusier moved to Paris where he met painter and kindred spirit Amédée Ozenfant. Together they founded the contemporary art movement of Purism – which emphasised purity of form. In 1918 they wrote and published the Purism manifesto Après le cubisme. Two years later, with poet Paul Dermée, they founded the Purism review, L’Esprit Nouveau which encouraged modern industrial techniques and strategies in architecture and planning. During this period, he wrote a series of articles on architecture under the pseudonym Le Corbusier. These articles were collected and published in a book called Vers une architecture (later translated as Towards a New Architecture) in 1923.
Professional Life Pre World War II
After years of focussing on Purism and not building anything, Le Corbusier opened an architectural studio in 1922 with his cousin Pierre Jeanneret. Their association lasted until 1940. They focussed on designing single family houses or villas with stark geometric forms and plain facades. Some of his ideas included using stilts to support the structure, freeing up the ground beneath; incorporating roof gardens or terraces; and open plan interiors with non-load bearing walls to deliver maximum flexibility. An example of one of these villas is Savoye House (pictured below) at Poissy.
Le Corbusier was a keen urban planner and produced many theoretical solutions for the urban housing crisis, including large-scale plans for entire cities.
His 1922 ‘Contemporary City’ plan for 3 million residents featured a city centre with 60-storey steel-framed skyscrapers encased in glass, set within rectangular green spaces. Lower set apartment buildings outside the city centre would house the residents of the city.
Professional Life Post World War II
After the end of World War II, Le Corbusier continued on his quest to solve the urban housing crisis with a series of 'unités' (housing blocks featured in The Radiant City) around France. The most well known was the Unité d'Habitation of Marseille (1946–52).