Le Corbusier

Le Corbusier

Charles-Édouard Jeanneret, better known as Le Corbusier (French pronunciation: ​[lə kɔʁbyzje]; October 6, 1887 – August 27, 1965), was an architect, designer, urbanist, and writer, famous for being 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, with his buildings constructed throughout Europe, India and America.

He was a pioneer in studies of modern high design and was dedicated to providing better living conditions for the residents of crowded cities.

Le Corbusier adopted his pseudonym in the 1920s, allegedly deriving it in part from the name of a distant ancestor, "Lecorbésier."

He was awarded the Frank P. Brown Medal and AIA Gold Medal in 1961.

He was born as Charles-Édouard Jeanneret-Gris in La Chaux-de-Fonds, a small city in Neuchâtel canton in north-western Switzerland, in the Jura mountains, just 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) across the border from France. He attended a kindergarten that used Fröbelian methods.

Young Jeanneret was attracted to the visual arts and studied at the La-Chaux-de-Fonds Art School under Charles L'Eplattenier, who had studied in Budapest and Paris. His architecture teacher in the Art School was the architect René Chapallaz, who had a large influence on Le Corbusier's earliest houses.

In his early years he would frequently escape the somewhat provincial atmosphere of his hometown by traveling around Europe. About 1907, he traveled to Paris, where he found work in the office of Auguste Perret, the French pioneer of reinforced concrete. In 1908, He studied architecture in Vienna with Josef Hoffmann. Between October 1910 and March 1911, he worked near Berlin for the renowned architect Peter Behrens, where he might have met Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Walter Gropius. He became fluent in German. Both of these experiences would prove influential in his later career.

Later in 1911, he journeyed to the Balkans and visited Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey, filling sketchbooks with renderings of what he saw, including many famous sketches of the Parthenon, whose forms he would later praise in his work Vers une architecture (1923) ("Towards an Architecture," but usually translated into English as "Towards a new Architecture").

Le Corbusier taught at his old school in La-Chaux-de-Fonds during World War I, not returning to Paris until the war was over. During these four years in Switzerland, he worked on theoretical architectural studies using modern techniques.[1] Among these was his project for the Domino House (1914–1915). This model proposed an open floor plan consisting of concrete slabs supported by a minimal number of thin, reinforced concrete columns around the edges, with a stairway providing access to each level on one side of the floor plan.

This design became the foundation for most of his architecture for the next ten years. Soon he would begin his own architectural practice with his cousin, Pierre Jeanneret (1896–1967), a partnership that would last until the 1950s, with an interruption in the WWII years, due to Le Corbusier's ambivalent position towards the Vichy regime.

In 1918, Le Corbusier met the Cubist painter Amédée Ozenfant, in whom he recognised a kindred spirit. Ozenfant encouraged him to paint, and the two began a period of collaboration. Rejecting Cubism as irrational and "romantic," the pair jointly published their manifesto, Après le cubisme and established a new artistic movement, Purism. Ozenfant and Le Corbusier established the Purist journal L'Esprit nouveau. He was good friends with the Cubist artist Fernand Léger.

It was Le Corbusier's Villa Savoye (1929–1931) that most succinctly summed up his five points of architecture that he had elucidated in the journal L'Esprit Nouveau and his book Vers une architecture, which he had been developing throughout the 1920s. First, Le Corbusier lifted the bulk of the structure off the ground, supporting it by pilotis – reinforced concrete stilts. These pilotis, in providing the structural support for the house, allowed him to elucidate his next two points: a free façade, meaning non-supporting walls that could be designed as the architect wished, and an open floor plan, meaning that the floor space was free to be configured into rooms without concern for supporting walls. The second floor of the Villa Savoye includes long strips of ribbon windows that allow unencumbered views of the large surrounding yard, 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. As if to put an exclamation mark after Le Corbusier's homage to modern industry, the driveway around the ground floor, with its semicircular path, measures the exact turning radius of a 1927 Citroën automobile.

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

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

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

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

The most famous of these chairs are the now-iconic LC-1, LC-2, LC-3, and LC-4, originally titled "Basculant" (LC-1), "Fauteuil grand confort, petit modèle" (LC-2, "great comfort sofa, small model"), "Fauteuil grand confort, grand modèle" (LC-3, "great comfort sofa, large model"), and "Chaise longue" (LC-4, "Long chair").[11] The LC-2 and LC-3 are more colloquially referred to as the petit confort and grand confort (abbreviation of full title, and due to respective sizes). The LC-2 (and similar LC-3) have been featured in a variety of media, notably the Maxell "blown away" advertisement.

In the year 1964, while Le Corbusier was still alive, Cassina S.p.A. of Milan acquired the exclusive worldwide rights to manufacture his furniture designs. Today many copies exist, but Cassina is still the only manufacturer authorized by the Fondation Le Corbusier; see US page.

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

Le Corbusier's death had a strong impact on the cultural and political world. Homages were paid worldwide and even some of Le Corbusier's worst artistic enemies, such as the painter Salvador Dalí, recognised his importance (Dalí sent a floral tribute). The President of the United States 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". Japanese TV channels decided to broadcast, simultaneously to the ceremony, his Museum in Tokyo, in what was at the time a unique media homage.

Visitors may find his grave site in the cemetery above Roquebrune-Cap-Martin in between Menton and Monaco in southern France.

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