Charles-Édouard Jeanneret, known as
Le Corbusier (French: [lə
kɔʁbyˈzje]; 6 October 1887 – 27 August 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 and he designed buildings in Europe, Japan, India, and
North and South America.
Dedicated to providing better living conditions for the residents of
Le Corbusier was influential in urban planning, and
was a founding member of the Congrès International d'Architecture
Le Corbusier prepared the master plan for the city of
Chandigarh in India, and contributed specific designs for several
On 17 July 2016, seventeen projects by
Le Corbusier in seven countries
were inscribed in the list of
UNESCO World Heritage sites as The
Architectural Work of Le Corbusier, an Outstanding Contribution to the
1 Early life (1887–1904)
2 Travel and first houses (1905–1914)
Dom-ino House and Schwob House (1914–1918)
4 Painting, Cubism,
Purism and L'Esprit Nouveau (1918–1922)
Toward an Architecture
Toward an Architecture (1920–1923)
6 L'Esprit Nouveau Pavilion (1925)
7 The Decorative Art of Today (1925)
8 Five Points of Architecture to
Villa Savoye (1923–1931)
League of Nations
League of Nations Competition and
Pessac Housing Project
10 Founding of CIAM (1928) and Athens Charter
11 Moscow Projects (1928–1934)
12 Cité Universitaire,
Immeuble Clarté and Cité de Refuge
13 Ville Contemporaine, Plan Voisin and
Cité Radieuse (1922–1939)
World War II
World War II and Reconstruction;
Unité d'Habitation in Marseille
15 Postwar Projects,
United Nations Headquarters (1947–1952)
16 Religious architecture (1950–1963)
18 Later life and work (1955–1965)
20.1 The Five Points of a Modern Architecture
20.2 "Architectural Promenade"
Ville Radieuse and Urbanism
20.5 Open Hand
25 Fondation Le Corbusier
27 World Heritage Site
30 Books by Le Corbusier
31 See also
34 External links
Early life (1887–1904)
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 6 October 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
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. He attended a kindergarten that
used Fröbelian methods.
Like his contemporaries
Frank Lloyd Wright
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. 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."
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."
Travel and first houses (1905–1914)
Le Corbusier's student project, The Villa Fallet, a chalet in La
The "Maison Blanche", built for Le Corbusier's parents in La
Open Interior of the "Maison Blanche" (1912)
The Villa Favre-Jacot in Le Locle,
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 façade. The success of this house
led to his construction of two similar houses, the Villas Jacquemet
and Stotzer, in the same area.
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 Hoffmann. In Florence, he visited
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."
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
Mies van der Rohe and
Walter Gropius were
also working and learning.
In 1911, he traveled again for five months; this time he journeyed to
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.
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
Le Locle for a wealthy watch manufacturer. Georges Favre-Jacot. Le
Corbusier 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.
Dom-ino House and Schwob House (1914–1918)
Charles-Édouard Jeanneret, 1914–15, Maison Dom-Ino (Dom-ino House)
The Anatole 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. 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
Auguste Perret in Paris, but now wanted to use it in new
"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.". This led him to his plan for the Dom-Ino House
(1914–15). This model proposed an open floor plan consisting of
three concrete slabs supported by six thin reinforced concrete
columns, with a stairway providing access to each level on one side of
the floor plan. The system was originally designed to provide
large numbers of temporary residences after World War I, producing
only slabs, columns and stairways, and residents could build exterior
wallls with the materials around the site. 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
façade 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. After
it was patented,
Le Corbusier designed a number of houses according to
the system, which were all white concrete boxes. Although some of
these were never built, they illustrated his basic architectural ideas
which will dominate his works throughout the 1920s. 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 façades, became the foundation
for most of his architecture over the next ten years.
In August 1916,
Le Corbusier received his largest commission ever, to
construct a villa for the Swiss watchmaker Anatole 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
to 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.The center of the
house is a large concrete box with two semicolumn structures on both
sides, which reflects his ideas of pure geometrical forms. 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."
Le Corbusier's grand ambitions collided with the ideas and budget of
his client, and led to bitter conflicts. Schwob went to court and
Le Corbusier access to site, or the right to claim to be the
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
Purism and L'Esprit Nouveau (1918–1922)
Le Corbusier, 1921, Nature morte (Still Life), oil on canvas, 54 x 81
cm, Musée National d'Art Moderne, Paris
Le Corbusier, 1922, Nature morte verticale (Vertical Still Life), oil
on canvas, 146.3 cm × 89.3 cm (57.6 by 35.2 inches),
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 and 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
World War II years
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
irrational and "romantic", the pair jointly published their manifesto,
Après le cubisme and established a new artistic movement, Purism.
Le Corbusier began writing for a new journal, L'Esprit
Nouveau, and promoted with energy and imagination his ideas of
In the first issue of the journal, in 1920, Charles-Edouard Jeanneret
Le Corbusier (an altered form of his maternal grandfather's
name, Lecorbésier) as a pseudonym, reflecting his belief that anyone
could reinvent themselves. 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. His theoretical studies soon advanced into several
different single-family house models. Among these was the Maison
"Citrohan", a pun on the name of the French
Citroën automaker, for
the modern industrial methods and materials
Le Corbusier advocated
using for the house. Here,
Le Corbusier proposed a three-floor
structure, with a double-height living room, bedrooms on the second
floor, and a kitchen on the third floor. The roof would be occupied by
a sun terrace. On the exterior
Le Corbusier installed a stairway to
provide second-floor access from ground level. Here, as in other
projects from this period, he also designed the façades to include
large uninterrupted banks of windows. The house used a rectangular
plan, with exterior walls that were not filled by windows but left as
white, stuccoed spaces.
Le Corbusier and Jeanneret left the interior
aesthetically spare, with any movable furniture made of tubular metal
frames. Light fixtures usually comprised single, bare bulbs. Interior
walls also were left white.
Toward an Architecture
Toward an Architecture (1920–1923)
In 1922 and 1923,
Le Corbusier devoted himself to advocating his new
concepts of architecture and urban planning in a series of polemical
articles published in L'Esprit Nouveau. At the Paris Salon d'Automne
in 1922, he presented his plan for the Ville Contemporaine, a model
city for three million people, whose residents would live and work in
a group of identical sixty-story tall apartment buildings surrounded
by lower zig-zag apartment blocks and a large park. In 1923, he
collected his essays from L'Esprit Nouveau published his first and
most influential book, "Towards an Architecture". He presented his
ideas for the future of architecture in a series of maxims,
declarations, and exhortations. commencing with "A grand epoch has
just begun. There exists a new spirit. There already exist a crowd of
works in the new spirit, they are found especially in industrial
production. Architecture is suffocating in its current uses. "Styles"
are a lie. Style is a unity of principles which animates all the work
of a period and which result in a characteristic spirit...Our epoch
determines each day its style..-Our eyes, unfortunately don't know how
to see it yet," and his most famous maxim, "A house is a machine to
live in." Most of the many photographs and drawings in the book came
from outside the world of traditional architecture; the cover showed
the promenade deck of an ocean liner, while others showed racing cars,
airplanes, factories, and the huge concrete and steel arches of
L'Esprit Nouveau Pavilion (1925)
The Pavilion of the Esprit Nouveau (1925)
The model of the Plan Voisin for the reconstruction of Paris displayed
at the Pavilion of the Esprit Nouveau
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
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.".
Le Corbusier and his collaborators were given a plot of land located
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.
Besides the furniture, the pavilion exhibited a model of his "Plan
Voisin" his provocative plan for rebuilding a large part of the centre
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".
The Decorative Art of Today (1925)
Le Corbusier combined a series of articles about decorative
art from "L'Esprit Nouveau" into a book, L'art décoratif
d'aujourd'hui (The Decorative Art of 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." 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." 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!"
"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".
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.
Five Points of Architecture to
Villa Savoye (1923–1931)
The Villa La Roche-Jeanerette (now Fondation Le Corbusier) in Paris
Corbusier Haus in Weissenhof, Stuttgart, Germany (1927)
Citrohan Haus in Weissenhof, Stuttgart, Germany (1927)
Villa Savoye in
Villa Savoye and Le Corbusier's Five Points of
The notoriety that
Le Corbusier 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 (1923–1925),
which now houses the Fondation Le Corbusier; the
Maison Guiette in
Antwerp, Belgium (1926); a residence for Jacques Lipchitz; the Maison
Cook, 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.
The following year he began the
Villa Savoye (1928–1931), which
became one of the most famous of Le 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
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.
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
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 Corbusier 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." The house had
its problems; the roof persistently leaked, due to construction
faults; but it became a landmark of modern architecture and one of the
best-known works of Le Corbusier.
League of Nations
League of Nations Competition and
Pessac Housing Project
Low-cost housing units built by
Le Corbusier in the Quartiers Modernes
Thanks to his passionate articles in L'Esprit Nouveau, his
participation in the 1925 Decorative Arts Exposition and the
conferences he gave on the new spirit of architecture, Le Corbusier
had become well known in the architectural world, though he had only
built residences for wealthy clients. In 1926, he entered the
competition for the construction of a headquarters for the League of
Geneva with a plan for an innovative lakeside complex of
modernist white concrete office buildings and meeting halls. There
were three-hundred thirty seven projects in competition. It appeared
that the Corbusier's project was the first choice of the architectural
jury, but after much behind-the scenes maneuvering the jury declared
it was unable to pick a single winner, and the project was given
instead to the top five architects, who were all neoclassicists. Le
Corbusier was not discouraged; he presented his own plans to the
public in articles and lectures to show the opportunity that the
League of Nations
League of Nations had missed.
Le Corbusier received the opportunity he had been looking
for; he was commissioned by a Bordeaux industrialist, Henry Frugès a
fervent admirer of his ideas on urban planning, to build a complex of
worker housing, the Quartiers Modernes Frugès, at Pessac, near
Le Corbusier described
Pessac as "A little like a Balzac
novel", a chance to create a whole community for living and working.
The Fruges quarter became his first laboratory for a residential
housing; a series of rectangular blocks composed of modular housing
units located in a garden setting. Like the unit displayed at the 1925
Exposition, each housing unit had its own small terrace. The earlier
villas he constructed all had white exterior walls, but for Pessac, at
the request of his clients, he added color; panels of brown, yellow
and jade green, coordinated by Le Corbusier. Originally planned to
have some two hundred units, it finally contained about fifty to
seventy housing units, in eight buildings.
Pessac became the model on
a small scale for his later and much larger Cité Radieuse
Founding of CIAM (1928) and Athens Charter
Le Corbusier took a major step toward establishing modernist
architecture as the dominant European style.
Le Corbusier had met with
many of the leading German and Austrian modernists during the
competition for the
League of Nations
League of Nations in 1927. In the same year, the
German Werkbund organized an architectural exposition at the
Weissenhof Estate Stuttgart. Seventeen leading modernist architects in
Europe were invited to design twenty-one houses;
Le Corbusier and Mies
Van der Rohe played a major part. In 1927 Le Corbusier, Pierre Chareau
and others proposed the foundation of an international conference to
establish the basis for a common style. The first meeting of the
Congrès Internationaux d'Architecture Moderne or International
Congresses of Modern Architects (CIAM), was held in a château on Lake
Switzerland 26–28 June 1928. Those attending included Le
Corbusier, Robert Mallet-Stevens, Auguste Perret,
Pierre Chareau and
Tony Garnier from France;
Victor Bourgeois from Belgium; Walter
Gropius, Erich Mendelsohn,
Ernst May and
Mies Van der Rohe
Mies Van der Rohe from
Germany; Josef Frank from Austria;
Mart Stam and
Gerrit Rietveld from
the Netherlands, and
Adolf Loos from Czechoslovakia. A delegation of
Soviet architects was invited to attend, but they were unable to
obtain visas. Later members included
Josep Lluís Sert
Josep Lluís Sert of Spain and
Alvar Aalto of Finland. No one attended from the United States. A
second meeting was organized in 1930 in Brussels by Victor Bourgeois
on the topic "Rational methods for groups of habitations". A third
meeting, on "The functional city", was scheduled for Moscow in 1932,
but was cancelled at the last minute. Instead the delegates held their
meeting on a cruise ship traveling between
Marseille and Athens. On
board, they together drafted a text on how modern cities should be
organized. The text, called The Athens Charter, after considerable
Le Corbusier and others, was finally published in 1943 and
became an influential text for city planners in the 1950s and 1960s.
The group met once more in Paris in 1937 to discuss public housing and
was scheduled to meet in the United States in 1939, but the meeting
was cancelled because of the war. The legacy of the CIAM was a roughly
common style and doctrine which helped define modern architecture in
Europe and the United States after World War II.
Moscow Projects (1928–1934)
Building of the Tsentrosoyuz, headquarters of Soviet trade unions,
Le Corbusier in the USSR
Le Corbusier saw the new society founded in the
Soviet Union after the
Russian Revolution as a promising laboratory for his architectural
ideas. He met the Russian architect
Konstantin Melnikov during the
1925 Decorative Arts Exposition in Paris, and admired the construction
of Melnikov's constructvist USSR pavilion, the only other truly
modernist building in the Exposition other than his own Esprit Nouveau
pavilion. At Melnikov's invitation he traveled to Moscow, where found
that his writings had been published in Russian; he gave lectures and
interviews, and between 1928 and 1932 he constructed an office
building for the Tsentrosoyuz, the headquarters of Soviet trade
In 1932, he was invited to take part in an international competition
for the new
Palace of Soviets
Palace of Soviets in Moscow, which was to be built on the
site of the Russian Orthodox cathedral of Moscow, demolished by
Le Corbusier contributed a highly original plan, a
low-level complex of circular and rectangular buildings and a
rainbow-like arch from which the roof of the main meeting hall was
suspended. To Le Corbusier's distress, his plan was rejected by Stalin
in favor of a plan for a massive neoclassical tower, the highest in
Europe, crowned with a statue of Vladimir Lenin. The Palace was never
built; construction was stopped by World War II, a swimming pool took
its place; and after the collapse of the USSR the cathedral was
rebuilt on its original site.
Immeuble Clarté and Cité de Refuge
Immeuble Clarté in
The Swiss Foundation in the Cité internationale universitaire de
Between 1928 and 1934, as Le Corbusier's reputation grew, he received
commissions to construct a wide variety of buildings. In 1928 he
received a commission from the Soviet government to construct the
headquarters of the Tsentrosoyuz, or central office of trade unions, a
large office building whose glass walls alternated with plaques of
stone. He built the Villa de Madrot in
Le Pradet (1929–1931); and an
apartment in Paris for Charles de Bestigui at the top of an existing
building on the
Champs-Élysées 1929–1932, (later demolished). In
1929–1930 he constructed a floating homeless shelter for the
Salvation Army on the left bank of the Seine at the Pont d'Austerlitz.
Between 1929 and 1933, he built a larger and more ambitious project
for the Salvation Army, the Cité de Refuge, on rue Cantagrel in the
13th arrondissement of Paris. He also constructed the Swiss Pavilion
Cité Universitaire in Paris with 46 units of student housing,
(1929–33). He designed furniture to go with the building; the main
salon was decorated with a montage of black and white photographs of
nature. In 1948, he replaced this with a colorful mural he painted
Geneva he built a glass-walled apartment building with
forty-five units, the Immeuble Clarté. Between 1931 and 1945 he built
an apartment building with fifteen units, including an apartment and
studio for himself on the 6th and 7th floors, at 4 rue
Nungesser-et-Coli in the 16th arrondissement in Paris. overlooking the
Bois de Boulogne. His apartment and studio are owned today by the
Fondation Le Corbusier, and can be visited.
Ville Contemporaine, Plan Voisin and Cité Radieuse
Unité d'habitation and Ville Radieuse
As the global
Great Depression enveloped Europe,
Le Corbusier devoted
more and more time to his ideas for urban design and planned cities.
He believed that his new, modern architectural forms would provide an
organizational solution that would raise the quality of life for the
working classes. In 1922 he had presented his model of the Ville
Contemporaine, a city of three million inhabitants, at the Salon
d'Automne in Paris. His plan featured tall office towers with
surrounded by lower residential blocks in a park setting. He reported
that "analysis leads to such dimensions, to such a new scale, and to
such the creation of an urban organism so different from those that
exist, that it that the mind can hardly imagine it." The Ville
Contemporaine, presenting an imaginary city in an imaginary location,
did not attract the attention that
Le Corbusier wanted. For his next
proposal, the Plan Voisin (1925), he took a much more provocative
approach; he proposed to demolish a large part of central Paris and to
replace it with a group of sixty-story cruciform office towers
surrounded by parkland. This idea shocked most viewers, as it was
certainly intended to do. The plan included a multi-level
transportation hub that included depots for buses and trains, as well
as highway intersections, and 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 created an elaborate road network. Groups of lower-rise
zigzag apartment blocks, set back from the street, were interspersed
among the office towers.
Le Corbusier wrote: "The center of Paris,
currently threatened with death, threatened by exodus, is in reality a
diamond mine...To abandon the center of Paris to its fate is to desert
in face of the enemy." 
As no doubt
Le Corbusier expected, no one hurried to implement the
Plan Voisin, but he continued working on variations of the idea and
recruiting followers. In 1929, he traveled to Brazil where he gave
conferences on his architectural ideas. He returned with drawings of
his own vision for Rio de Janeiro; he sketched serpentine multi-story
apartment buildings on pylons, like inhabited highways, winding
through Rio Janeiro.
In 1931, he developed a visionary plan for another city Algiers, then
part of France. This plan, like his
Rio Janeiro plan, called for the
construction of an elevated viaduct of concrete, carrying residential
units, which would run from one end of the city to the other. This
plan, unlike his early Plan Voisin, was more conservative, because it
did not call for the destruction of the old city of Algiers; the
residential housing would be over the top of the old city. This plan,
like his Paris plans, provoked discussion, but never came close to
Le Corbusier made his first visit to the United States. He
was asked by American journalists what he thought about New York City
skyscrapers; he responded, characteristically, that he found them
"much too small". He wrote a book describing his experiences in
the States, Quand les Cathédrales etait blanc- voyages au pays des
timides (When Cathedrals were White; voyage to the land of the timid)
whose title expressed his view of the lack of boldness in American
He wrote a great deal but built very little in the late 1930s. The
titles of his books expressed the combined urgency and optimism of his
messages: Cannons? Munitions? No thank you, Lodging please! (1938) and
The lyricism of modern times and urbanism (1939).
In 1928, the French Minister of Labour, Louis Loucheur, won the
passage of a French law on public housing, calling for the
construction of 260,000 new housing units within five years. Le
Corbusier immediately began to design a new type of modular housing
unit, which he called the Maison Loucheur, which would be suitable for
the project. These units were forty-five square metres (480 square
feet) in size, made with metal frames, and were designed to be
mass-produced and then transported to the site, where they would be
inserted into frameworks of steel and stone; The government insisted
on stone walls to win the support of local building contractors. The
standardisation of apartment buildings was the essence of what Le
Corbusier termed the
Ville Radieuse or "radiant city", in a new book
which published in 1935. The Radiant City was similar to his earlier
Contemporary City and Plan Voisin, with the difference that residences
would be assigned by family size, rather than by income and social
position. In his 1935 book, he developed his ideas for a new kind of
city, where the principle functions; heavy industry, manufacturing,
habitation and commerce, would be clearly separated into their own
neighbourhoods, carefully planned and designed. However, before any
units could be built,
World War II
World War II intervened.
World War II
World War II and Reconstruction;
Unité d'Habitation in Marseille
Exterior of the Unité d'Habitation, or
Cité Radieuse in Marseille
The modular design of the apartments inserted into the building
Internal "street" within the Unité d'Habitation, Marseille
Salon and Terrace of an original unit of the Unité d'Habitation, now
Cité de l'Architecture et du Patrimoine
Cité de l'Architecture et du Patrimoine in Paris (1952)
During the War and the German occupation of France,
Le Corbusier did
his best to promote his architectural projects. He moved to
a time, where the collaborationist government of Marshal Philippe
Petain was located, offering his services for architectural projects,
including his plan for the reconstruction of Algiers, but they were
rejected. He continued writing, completing Sur les Quatres routes (On
the Four Routes) in 1941. After 1942,
Le Corbusier left
Paris. He became for a time a technical adviser at Alexis Carrel's
eugenic foundation, he resigned from this position on 20 April
1944. In 1943, he founded a new association of modern architects
and builders, the Ascoral, the Assembly of Constructors for a renewal
of architecture, but there were no projects to build.
When the war ended,
Le Corbusier was nearly sixty years old, and he
had not had a single project realized in ten years. He tried, without
success, to obtain commissions for several of the first large
reconstruction projects, but his proposals for the reconstruction of
the town of
Saint-Dié and for
La Rochelle were rejected. Still, he
Le Corbusier finally found a willing partner in Raoul
Dautry, the new Minister of Reconstruction and Urbanism. Dautry agreed
to fund one of his projects, a "
Unité d'habitation de grandeur
conforme", or housing units of standard size, with the first one to be
built in Marseille, which had been heavily damaged during the war.
This was his first public commission, and was a major breakthrough for
Le Corbusier. He gave the building the name of his pre-war theoretical
project, the Cité Radieuse, and followed the principles that he had
studied before the war, he proposed a giant reinforced concrete
framework, into which modular apartments would be fit like bottles
into a bottle rack. Like the Villa Savoye, the structure was poised on
concrete pylons though, because of the shortage of steel to reinforce
the concrete, the pylons were more massive than usual. The building
contained 337 duplex apartment modules to house a total of 1,600
people. Each module was three stories high, and contained two
apartments, combined so each had two levels (see diagram above). The
modules ran from one side of the building to the other, and each
apartment had a small terrace at each end. They were ingeniously
fitted together like pieces of a Chinese puzzle, with a corridor
slotted through the space between the two apartments in each module.
Residents had a choice of twenty-three different configurations for
Le Corbusier designed furniture, carpets and lamps to go
with the building, all purely functional; the only decoration was a
choice of interior colors that
Le Corbusier gave to residents. The
only mildly decorative features of the building were the ventilator
shafts on the roof, which
Le Corbusier made to look like the
smokestacks of an ocean liner, a functional form that he admired.
The building was designed not just to be a residence, but to offer all
the services needed for living. Every third floor, between the
modules, there was a wide corridor, like an interior street, which ran
the length of the building from one end of the building to the other.
This served as a sort of commercial street, with shops, eating places,
a nursery school and recreational facilities. A running track and
small stage for theater performances was located in the roof. The
building itself was surrounded by trees and a small park.
Le Corbusier wrote later that the
Unité d'Habitation concept was
inspired by the visit he had made to the
Florence Charterhouse at
Galluzzo in Italy, in 1907 and 1910 during his early travels. He
wanted to recreate, he wrote, an ideal place "for meditation and
contemplation." He also learned from the monastery, he wrote, that
"standardization led to perfection," and that "all of his life a man
labours under this impulse: to make the home the temple of the
Unité d'Habitation marked a turning point in the career of Le
Corbusier; in 1952, he was made a Commander of the Légion d'Honneur
in a ceremony held on the roof of his new building. He had progressed
from being an outsider and critic of the architectural establishment
to its centre, as the most prominent French architect.
United Nations Headquarters (1947–1952)
Headquarters of the United Nations
Headquarters of the United Nations designed by Le Corbusier, Oscar
Wallace K. Harrison
Wallace K. Harrison (1947–52)
Le Corbusier made another almost identical
Unité d'Habitation in
Nantes in the
Loire-Atlantique Department between 1948 and
1952, and three more over the following years, in Berlin,
Briey-en-Forêt and Firminy; and he designed a factory for the company
of Claude and Duval, in
Saint-Dié in the Vosges.
In early 1947
Le Corbusier submitted a design for the Headquarters of
the United Nations, which was to be built beside the East River in New
York. Instead of competition, the design was to be selected by a Board
of Design Consultants composed of leading international architects
nominated by member governments, including Le Corbusier, Oscar
Niemeyer of Brazil, Howard Robertson from Britain, Nikolai Bassov of
the Soviet Union, and five others from around the world. The committee
was under the direction of the American architect Wallace K. Harrison,
who was also architect for the Rockefeller family, which had donated
the site for the building.
Le Corbusier had submitted his plan for the Secretariat, called Plan
23 of the 58 submitted. In Le Corbusier's plan, where offices, council
chambers and General Assembly hall were in teethe a single block in
the center of the site. He lobbied hard for his project, and asked the
younger Brazilian architect, Niemeyer, to support and assist him on
his plan. Niemeyer, to help Le Corbusier, refused to submit his own
design and did not attend the meetings until the Director, Harrison,
insisted. Niemeyer then submitted his plan, Plan 32, with the office
building and councils and General Assembly in separate buildings.
After much discussion, the Committee chose Niemeyer's plan, but
suggested that he collaborate with
Le Corbusier on the final project.
Le Corbusier urged Niemeyer to put the General Assembly Hall in the
center of the site, though this would eliminate Niemeyer's plan to
have a large plaza in the center. Niemeyer agreed with Le Corbusier's
suggestion, and the headquarters was built, with minor modifications,
according to their joint plan.
Religious architecture (1950–1963)
The Chapelle of Notre-Dame-du-Haut in
The Convent of
Sainte Marie de La Tourette
Sainte Marie de La Tourette (1953–1960)
Meeting room inside the Convent of Sainte Marie de la Tourette
Church of Saint-Pierre,
Interior of the Church of Saint-Pierre in Firminy. The sunlight
through the roof projects the Constellation Orion on the walls.
Le Corbusier was an avowed atheist. but he also had a strong belief in
the ability of architecture in to create a sacred and spiritual
environment. In the postwar years he designed two important religious
buildings; the Chapelle of Notre-Dame-du-Haut at Ronchamp
(1950–1955); and the Convent of Sainte Marie de La Tourette
Le Corbusier wrote later that he was greatly aided in
his religious architecture by a Dominican father, Père Couturier, who
had founded a movement and review of modern religious art.
Le Corbusier first visited the remote mountain site of
Ronchamp in May
1950, saw the ruins of the old chapel, and drew sketches of possible
forms. He wrote afterwards: "In building this chapel, I wanted to
create a place of silence, of peace, of prayer, of interior joy. The
feeling of the sacred animated our effort. Some things are sacred,
others aren't, whether they're religious or not."
The second major religious project undertaken by
Le Corbusier was the
Sainte Marie de La Tourette
Sainte Marie de La Tourette in
L'Arbresle in the Rhone
Department (1953–1960). Once again it was Father Couturier who
Le Corbusier in the project. He invited
Le Corbusier to visit
the starkly simple and imposing 12th–13th century Le Thoronet Abbey
in Provence, and also used his memories of his youthful visit to the
Erna Charterhouse in Florence. This project involved not only a
chapel, but a library, refectory, rooms for meetings and reflection,
and dormitories for the nuns. For the living space he used the same
Modulor concept for measuring the ideal living space that he had used
Unité d'Habitation in Marseille; height under the ceiling of
2.26 metres (7 feet 5 inches); and width 1.83 metres
(6 feet 0 inches).
Le Corbusier used raw concrete to construct the convent, which is
placed on the side of a hill. The three blocks of dormitories U,
closed by the chapel, with a courtyard in the center. The Convent has
a flat roof, and is placed on sculpted concrete pillars. Each of the
residential cells has small loggia with a concrete sunscreen looking
out at the countryside. The centerpiece of the convent is the chapel,
a plain box of concrete, which he called his "Box of miracles." Unlike
the highly finished façade of the Unité d'Habitation, the façade of
the chapel is raw, unfinished concrete. He described the building in a
Albert Camus in 1957: "I'm taken with the idea of a "box of
miracles"....as the name indicates, it is a rectangual box made of
concrete. It doesn't have any of the traditional theatrical tricks,
but the possibility, as its name suggests, to make miracles." The
interior of the chapel is extremely simple, only benches in a plain,
unfinished concrete box, with light coming through a single square in
the roof and six small band on the sides. The Crypt beneath has
intense blue, red and yellow walls, and illumination by sunlight
channeled from above. The monastery has other unusual features,
including floor to ceiling panels of glass in the meeting rooms,
window panels that fragmented the view into pieces, and a system of
concrete and metal tubes like gun barrels which aimed sunlight through
colored prisms and projected it onto the walls of sacristy and to the
secondary altars of the crypt on the level below. These were
whimsically termed the ""machine guns" of the sacristy and the "light
cannons" of the crypt.
Le Corbusier began a third religious building, the Church of
Saint Pierre in the new town of Firminy-Vert, where he had built a
Unité d'Habitation and a cultural and sports centre. While he made
the original design, construction did not begin until five years after
his death, and work continued under different architects until it was
completed in 2006. The most spectacular feature of the church is the
sloping concrete tower that covers the entire interior. similar to
that in the Assembly Building in his complex at Chandigarh. Windows
high in the tower illuminate the interior.
Le Corbusier originally
proposed that tiny windows also project the form of a constellation on
the walls. Later architects designed the church to project the
The High Court of Justice,
Palace of Assembly (Chandigarh)
Palace of Assembly (Chandigarh) (1952–1961)
Le Corbusier’s largest and most ambitious project was the design of
Chandigarh, the capital city of the
Haryana and Punjab States of
India, created after
India received independence in 1947. Le Corbusier
was contacted in 1950 by Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, and
invited him to propose a project. An American architect, Albert Mayer,
had made a plan in 1947 for a city of 150,000 inhabitants, but the
Indian government wanted a grander and more monumental city. (The city
today has a population of more than a million.) Corbusier worked on
the plan with two British specialists in urban design and tropical
Maxwell Fry and Jane Drew, and with his cousin,
Pierre Jeanneret, who moved to
India and supervised the construction
until his death.
Le Corbusier, as always, was rhapsodic about his project; "It will be
a city of trees," he wrote, "of flowers and water, of houses as simple
as those at the time of Homer, and of a few splendid edifices of the
highest level of modernism, where the rules of mathematics will
reign.". His plan called for residential, commercial and
industrial areas, along with parks and a transportation
infrastructure. In the middle was the capitol, a complex of four major
government buildings; the Palace of the National Assembly, the High
Court of Justice; the Palace of Secretariat of Ministers, and the
Palace of the Governor. For financial and political reasons, the
Palace of the Governor was dropped well into the construction of the
city, throwing the final project somewhat off-balance. From the
Le Corbusier worked, as he reported, "Like a forced
laborer." He dismissed the earlier American plan as "Faux-Moderne" and
overly filled with parking spaces roads. His intent was to present
what he had learned in forty years of urban study, and also to show
the French government the opportunities they had missed in not
choosing him to rebuild French cities after the War. His design
made use of many of his favorite ideas; an architectural promenade,
incorporating the local landscape and the sunlight and shadows into
the design; the use of the
Modulor to give a correct human scale to
each element; and his favourite symbol, the open hand; ("the hand is
open to give and to receive'.") He placed a monumental open hand
statue in a prominent place in the design.
Le Corbusier's design called for the use of raw concrete, whose
surface not smoothed or polished and which showed the marks of the
forms in which it dried.
Pierre Jeanneret wrote to his cousin that he
was in a continual battle with the construction workers, who could not
resist the urge to smooth and finish the raw concrete, particularly
when important visitors were coming to the site. At one point one
thousand workers were employed on the site of the High Court of
Le Corbusier wrote to his mother, "It is an architectural
symphony which surpasses all my hopes, which flashes and develops
under the light in a way which is unimaginable and unforgettable. From
far, from up close, it provokes astonishment; all made with raw
concrete and a cement cannon. Adorable, and grandiose. In all the
centuries no one has seen that."
The High Court of Justice, begun in 1951, was finished in 1956. The
building was radical in its design; a parallelogram topped with an
inverted parasol. Along the walls were high concrete grills 1.5 metres
(4 feet 11 inches) thick which served as sunshades. The
entry featured a monumental ramp and columns that allowed the air to
circulate. The pillars were originally white limestone, but in the
1960s they were repainted in bright colors, which better resisted the
The Secretariat, the largest building that housed the government
offices, was constructed between 1952 and 1958. It is an enormous
block 250 metres (820 feet) long and eight levels high, served by a
ramp which extends from the ground to the top level The ramp partly
sculptural and partly practical; since there were no modern building
cranes, the ramp was the only way to get materials to the top of the
construction site. The Secretariat had two features which were
borrowed from his design for the
Unité d'Habitation in Marseille;
Concrete grill sunscreens over the windows, and a roof terrace.
The most important building of the capitol complex was the Palace of
Assembly (1952–61), which faced the High Court at the other end of a
five hundred meter esplanade, and faces a large reflecting pool. This
building features a central courtyard, over which is the main meeting
hall for the Assembly. On the roof on the rear of the building is a
signature feature of Le Corbusier, a large tower, similar in form to
the smokestack of a ship or the ventilation tower of a heating plant.
Le Corbusier added touches of color and texture with an immense
tapestry in the meeting hall and large gateway decorated with enamel.
He wrote of this building, "A Palace magnificent in its effect, from
the new art of raw concrete. It is magnificent and terrible; terrible
meaning that there is nothing cold about it to the eyes."
Later life and work (1955–1965)
National Museum of Western Art
National Museum of Western Art in Tokyo (1954–1959)
Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts
Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts (1960–1963)
Centre Le Corbusier
Centre Le Corbusier in Zürich (1962–1967)
The 1950s and 1960s, were a difficult period for Le Corbusier's
personal life; his wife Yvonne died in 1957, and his mother, to whom
he was closely attached, died in 1960. He remained active in a wide
variety of fields; in 1955 he published Poéme de l'angle droits, a
portfolio of lithographs, published in the same collection as the book
Jazz by Henri Matisse. In 1958 he collaborated with the composer Edgar
Varèse on a work called Le Poème électronique, a show of sound and
light, for the Philips Pavilion at the International Exposition in
Brussels. In 1960 he published a new book, L'Atelier de la recherché
patiente The workshop of patient research), simultaneously published
in four languages. He received growing recognition for his pioneering
work in modernist architecture; in 1959, a successful international
campaign was launched to have his Villa Savoye, threatened with
demolition, declared an historic monument; it was the first time that
a work by a living architect received this distinction. In 1962, in
the same year as the dedication of the Palace of the Assembly in
Chandigarh, the first retrospective exhibit on his work was held at
Museum of Modern Art
Museum of Modern Art in Paris. In 1964, in a ceremony
held in his atelier on rue de Sèvres, he was awarded the Grand Cross
of the Légion d'honneur by Culture Minister André Malraux.
His later architectural work was extremely varied, and often based on
designs of earlier projects. In 1952–1958, he designed a series of
tiny vacation cabins, 2.26 by 2.26 by 2.6 metres (7.4 by 7.4 by 8.5
feet) in size, for a site next to the Mediterranean at
Roquebrune-Cap-Martin. He built a similar cabin for himself, but the
rest of the project was not realized until after his death. In
1953–1957, he designed a residential building for Brazilian students
for the Cité de la Université in Paris. Between 1954 and 1959, he
National Museum of Western Art
National Museum of Western Art in Tokyo. His other projects
included a cultural centre and stadium for the town of Firminy, where
had had built his first housing project (1955–1958); and a stadium
in Baghdad, Iraq (much altered since its construction). He also
constructed three new Unités d'Habitation, apartment blocks on the
model of the original in Marseille, the first in Berlin (1956–1958),
the second in Briey-en-Forêt in the
and the third (1959–1967) in Firminy. In 1960–1963, he built his
only building in the United States; the Carpenter Center for the
Visual Arts in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
At the time of his death in 1965, several projects were on the drawing
boards; the church of Saint-Pierre in Firminy, finally completed in
modified form in 2006; a Palace of Congresses for Strasbourg
(1962–65), and a hospital in Venice, (1961–1965) which were never
Le Corbusier designed an art gallery beside the lake in Zürich
for gallery owner Heidi Weber in 1962–1967. Now called the Centre Le
Corbusier, it is one of his last finished works.
The holiday cabin where he spent his last days in
Against his doctor's orders, on 27 August 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 1 September 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 came 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
Lyndon B. Johnson
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.
Fondation Le Corbusier (FLC) functions as his official estate.
The US copyright representative for the
Fondation Le Corbusier is the
Artists Rights Society.
The Five Points of a Modern Architecture
Main article: Le Corbusier's Five Points of Architecture
Le Corbusier defined the principles of his new architecture in Les
cinq points de l'architecture moderne, published in 1927, and
co-authored by his cousin, Pierre Jeanneret. They summarized the
lessons he had learned in the previous years, which he put literally
into concrete form in his villas constructed of the late 1920s, most
dramatically in the
Villa Savoye (1928–1931)
The five points are:
the Pilotis, or pylon. The building is raised up on reinforced
concrete pylons, which allows for free circulation on the ground
level, and eliminates dark and damp parts of the house.
The Roof Terrace. The sloping roof is replaced by a flat roof; the
roof can be used as a garden, for promenades, sports or a swimming
The Free Plan. Load-bearing walls are replaced by a steel or
reinforced concrete columns, so the interior can be freely designed,
and interior walls can put anywhere, or left out entirely. The
structure of the building is not visible from the outside.
The Ribbon Window. Since the walls do not support the house, the
windows can run the entire length of the house, so all rooms can get
The Free Facade. Since the building is supported by columns in the
interior, the façade can be much lighter and more open, or made
entirely of glass. There is no need for lintels or other structure
around the windows.
The "Architectural Promenade" was another idea dear to Le Corbusier,
which he particularly put into play in his design of the Villa Savoye.
In 1928, in Une Maison, un Palais, he described it: "Arab architecture
gives us a precious lesson: it is best appreciated in walking, on
foot. It is in walking, in going from one place to another, that you
see develop the features of the architecture. In this house (Villa
Savoye) you find a veritable architectural promenade, offering
constantly varying aspects, unexpected, sometimes astonishing." The
promenade at Villa Savoye,
Le Corbusier wrote, both in the interior of
the house and on the roof terrace, often erased the traditional
difference between the inside and outside.
Ville Radieuse and Urbanism
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. 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.
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
Le Corbusier "His ideas—his urban planning and his
architecture—are viewed separately," Perelman noted, "whereas they
are one and the same thing."
In La Ville radieuse, he conceived an essentially apolitical society,
in which the bureaucracy of economic administration effectively
replaces the state.
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. From Fourier,
Le Corbusier adopted at least in part
his notion of administrative, rather than political, government.
Main article: Modulor
Modulor was a standard model of the human form which Le Corbusier
devised to determine the correct amount of living space needed for
residents in his buildings. It was also his rather original way of
dealing with differences between the metric system and British or
American system, since the
Modulor was not attached to either one.
Le Corbusier explicitly used the golden ratio in his
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."
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
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.
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
Open Hand Monument
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
Le Corbusier created is a 26 meter high version in
India known as Open Hand Monument.
Main article: Le Corbusier's Furniture
Le Corbusier was an eloquent critic of the finely crafted, hand-made
furniture, made with rare and exotic woods, inlays and coverings,
presented at the 1925 Exposition of Decorative Arts. Following his
Le Corbusier first wrote a book with his theories of
furniture, complete with memorable slogans. In his 1925 book L'Art
Décoratif d'aujourd'hui, he called for furniture that used
inexpensive materials and could be mass-produced. Le Corbusier
described 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". He further
declared, "Chairs are architecture, sofas are bourgeois",
Frame of an LC4 chair by
Le Corbusier and Perriand (1927–28) at
Museum of Decorative Arts, Paris
Le Corbusier first relied on ready-made furniture from Thonet to
furnish his projects, such as his pavilion at the 1925 Exposition. In
1928, following the publication of his theories, he began
experimenting with furniture design. In 1928, he inviting the
architect Charlotte Perriand, to join his studio as a furniture
designer. His cousin, Pierre Jeanneret, also collaborated on many of
the designs. For the manufacture of his furniture, he turned to the
Gebrüder Thonet had begun making chairs with tubular
steel, a material originally used for bicycles, in the early 1920s. Le
Corbusier admired the design of
Marcel Breuer and the Bauhaus, who in
1925, had begun making sleek modern tubular club chairs. Mies van der
Rohe had begun making his own version in a sculptural curved form with
a cane seat in 1927.
The first results of the collaboration between
Le Corbusier and
Perriand were three types of chairs made with chrome-plated tubular
steel frames; The LC4, Chaise Longue, (1927–28), with a covering of
cowhide, which gave it a touch of exoticism; the Fauteuil Grand
Confort (LC3) (1928–29), a club chair with a tubular frame which
resembled the comfortable
Art Deco club chairs that became popular in
the 1920s; and the fauteuil a Dossier Basculant (LC4) (1928–29), a
low seat suspended in a tubular steel frame, also with a cowhide
upholstery. These chairs were designed specifically for two of his
projects, The Maison la Roche in Paris and a pavilion for Barbara and
Henry Church. All three clearly showed the influence of Mies van der
Rohe and Marcel Breuer. The line of furniture was expanded with
additional designs for Le Corbusier's 1929 Salon d'Automne
installation, 'Equipment for the Home'. Despite the intention of Le
Corbusier that his furniture should be inexpensive and mass-produced
his pieces were originally costly to make and were not mass-produced
until many years later, when he was famous. 
The political views of
Le Corbusier were rather vague, and varied
considerably over time. In the 1920s he briefly wrote articles about
urbanism for the syndicalist journals Plans, Prélude and L'homme
reel. Between 1925 and 1928
Le Corbusier had connections to a
short-lived French fascist party, Le Faisceau, led by Georges Valois.
Valois later became an anti-fascist,
Le Corbusier also had
apparent connections with another former member of Faisceau, Hubert
Lagardelle, a former labor leader and syndicalist, who had become
disaffected with the political left. In 1934, after Lagardelle had
obtained a position at the French embassy in Rome, he arranged for Le
Corbusier to lecture on architecture in Italy. Lagardelle later served
as minister of labor in the pro-Axis
Vichy regime. While Le Corbusier
sought commissions from the
Vichy regime, he was unsuccessful, and the
only appointment he received from it was membership of a committee
Le Corbusier has also been accused of anti-semitism. He wrote to his
mother in October 1940, prior to a referendum held by the Vichy
government: "The Jews are having a bad time. I occasionally feel
sorry. But it appears their blind lust for money has rotted the
country". He also was accused of belittling the Muslim population of
Algeria, then part of France. When
Le Corbusier put forward a plan for
the rebuilding of Algiers, he condemned the existing housing for
European Algerians, complaining that it was inferior to that inhabited
by indigenous Algerians: "the civilized live like rats in holes",
while "the barbarians live in solitude, in well-being." His plan
Algiers was rejected, and thereafter Le Corbusier
largely avoided politics for the rest of his career.
Few other 20th-century architects were praised, or criticized, as much
as Le Corbusier. In his eulogy to
Le Corbusier at the memorial
ceremony for the architect in the courtyard of the
1September 1965, French Culture Minister
André Malraux declared, "Le
Corbusier had some great rivals, but none of them had the same
significance in the revolution of architecture, because none bore
insults so patiently and for so long."
Most of the later criticism of
Le Corbusier was directed at his ideas
of urban planning. In 1998 the architectural historian Witold
Rybczynski wrote in Time magazine: "He called it the Ville Radieuse,
the Radiant City. Despite the poetic title, his urban vision was
authoritarian, inflexible and simplistic. Wherever it was tried- in
Le Corbusier himself or in Brasilia by his followers- it
failed. Standardization proved inhuman and disorienting. The open
spaces were inhospitable; the bureaucratically imposed plan, socially
destructive. In the US, the Radiant City took the form of vast
urban-renewal schemes and regimented public housing projects that
damaged the urban fabric beyond repair. Today, these megaprojects are
being dismantled, as superblocks give way to rows of houses fronting
streets and sidewalks. Downtowns have discovered that combining, not
separating, different activities is the key to success. So is the
presence of lively residential neighborhoods, old as well as new.
Cities have learned that preserving history makes more sense than
starting from zero. It has been an expensive lesson, and not one that
Le Corbusier intended, but it too is part of his legacy."
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 have also been
criticized for 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.
For some critics, the urbanism of Le Corbusier's was the model for a
fascist state. These critics cited
Le Corbusier himself when he
wrote 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".
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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. For the design of the
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
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
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)
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.
Le Corbusier's design was also cited as an inspiration for Kanye
West's album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.
Fondation Le Corbusier
Le Corbusier, work reproduced in Život 2 (1922)
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
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
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
Le Corbusier drawings, studies, and plans.
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
Le Corbusier was named Grand Officiers of the Légion
He received the
Frank P. Brown Medal and
AIA Gold Medal
AIA Gold Medal in 1961.
University of Cambridge
University of Cambridge awarded
Le Corbusier an honorary degree in
World Heritage Site
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".
Le Corbusier's portrait was featured on the 10 Swiss francs banknote,
pictured with his distinctive eyeglasses.
The following place-names carry his name:
Place Le Corbusier, Paris, near the site of his atelier on the Rue de
Le Corbusier Boulevard, Laval, Quebec, Canada
Le Corbusier in his hometown of La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland
Le Corbusier Street in the partido of Malvinas Argentinas, Buenos
Aires Province, Argentina
Le Corbusier Street in Le Village Parisien of Brossard, Quebec, Canada
Le Corbusier Promenade, a promenade along the water at
Le Corbusier Museum, Sector- 19 Chandigarh, India
Le Corbusier Museum in
Stuttgart am Weissenhof
Main article: List of
Le Corbusier buildings
1923: Villa La Roche, Paris, France
1925: Villa Jeanneret, Paris, France
1928: Villa Savoye, Poissy-sur-Seine, France
1929: Cité du Refuge, Armée du Salut, Paris, France
1931: Palace of the Soviets, Moscow, USSR (project)
1931: Immeuble Clarté, Geneva, Switzerland
1933: Tsentrosoyuz, Moscow, USSR
1947–1952: Unité d'Habitation, Marseille, France
United Nations headquarters, New York City, U.S.
1949–1953: Curutchet House, La Plata,
Argentina (project manager:
1950–1954: Chapelle Notre Dame du Haut, Ronchamp, France
1951: Maisons Jaoul, Neuilly-sur-Seine, France
1951: Buildings in Ahmedabad, India
Sanskar Kendra Museum, Ahmedabad
1951: ATMA House
1951: Villa Sarabhai, Ahmedabad
1951: Villa Shodhan, Ahmedabad
1951: Villa of Chinubhai Chimanlal, Ahmedabad
Unité d'Habitation of Nantes-Rezé, Nantes, France
1952–1959: Buildings in Chandigarh, India
1952: Palace of Justice
1952: Museum and Gallery of Art
1953: Secretariat Building
1953: Governor's Palace
1955: Palace of Assembly
1959: Government College of Art (GCA) and the
Chandigarh College of
1957: Maison du Brésil, Cité Universitaire, Paris, France
1957–1960: Sainte Marie de La Tourette, near Lyon,
Unité d'Habitation of Berlin-Charlottenburg, Flatowallee 16,
Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts
Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts at Harvard University,
Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S.
1964–1969: Firminy-Vert, France
Unité d'Habitation of Firminy
1965: Maison de la culture de Firminy-Vert
Heidi Weber Museum
Heidi Weber Museum (Centre Le Corbusier), Zürich, Switzerland
Books by Le Corbusier
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: 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
Modulor (The Modulor)
1953: Le Poeme de l'Angle Droit (The Poem of the Right Angle)
Modulor 2 (The
1959: Deuxième clavier de couleurs (Second Colour Keyboard)
1966: Le Voyage d'Orient (The Voyage to the East)
Mathematics and art
^ a b Ministère de la Culture et de la Communication, Archives
nationales; site de Fontainebleau, Légion d'honneur recipient, birth
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^ Marc Solitaire,
Le Corbusier et l'urbain – la rectification du
damier froebelien, pp. 93–117.
^ Actes du colloque La ville et l'urbanisme après Le Corbusier,
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Le Corbusier entre Raphael et Fröbel, pp. 9–27,
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Wikiquote has quotations related to: Le Corbusier
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Le Corbusier.
Le Corbusier at Encyclopædia Britannica
Le Corbusier architectural drawings, 1935–1961. Held by the
Department of Drawings & Archives, Avery Architectural & Fine
Arts Library, Columbia University.
Fondation Le Corbusier – Official site
Le Corbusier on Artsy.net
Le Corbusier's Working Lifestyle: 'Working with Le Corbusier'
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Corbusier. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2013.
Le Corbusier and the Sun". solarhousehistory.com.
ISNI: 0000 0001 2280 3718
BNF: cb119115569 (data)