Le Corbusier

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Le Corbusier
Charles-Édouard Jeanneret
BirthplaceLa Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland
NationalitySwiss / French (from 1930)

Le Corbusier

Le Corbusier (lə kôrbüzyāˈ), pseud. of Charles Édouard Jeanneret (shärl ādwärˈ zhänərāˈ), 1887–1965, French architect, b. La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland. Often known simply as “Corbu,” he was one of the most influential architects of the 20th cent. and his buildings and writings had a revolutionary effect on the international development of modern architecture, especially the International style. In 1908, Le Corbusier worked with Auguste Perret, a pioneer in the architectural use of reinforced concrete. He also worked and studied under Peter Behrens in Berlin. In 1915 a series of architectural sketches made evident his new and radical approach to the technical and aesthetic problems of building.

In the following years Le Corbusier produced schemes for houses, apartments, and for a city built on pillars, often drawing his inspiration from industrial forms, such as steamship construction. In 1919 he settled in Paris and in 1921 his “Citrohan” model for dwelling houses expressed a need for new construction methods. Two years later, at Vaucresson near Paris, the first building (a villa) embodying his principles was erected. He also contributed articles to the review Esprit nouveau, which he had founded in 1920 with Amédée Ozenfant. Collected under the title Vers une architecture (1923, tr. from the 13th French ed., Towards a New Architecture, 1927), the journals attained international circulation. A prolific writer, he was also the author of more than 50 other books and pamphlets.

Among Le Corbusier's many well-known buildings are a workers' housing project at Pessac near Bordeaux, the Villa Savoye at Poissy, and the Swiss and Brazilian students' pavilions at Cité Universitaire, Paris. His competition-winning design (1927) for the palace of the League of Nations was later rejected on a technicality. In 1946 Le Corbusier was invited to join the international group of architects who designed the headquarters of the United Nations in New York City. After World War II, his plan for a “vertical city” was in part realized in the Unité d'Habitation in Marseilles (1946–52). His most ambitious work was the design of the main buildings of the new capital of the Punjab, Chandigarh (begun 1951). Other major works are the massive sculptural forms of the Notre Dame du Haut chapel, Ronchamp (1950–55); the convent of La Tourette near Lyons (1955–60); and the Visual Arts Center, Harvard (1961–62). After 1940 Le Corbusier developed the modulor system of harmonious but not identical proportions; the system was devised to offer architectural individuality and yet serve the needs of modern mass production.


See biographies by N. F. Weber (2008) and A. Flint (2014); studies by P. Blake (1964) and M. Besset (1969); W. Boesiger, ed., Le Corbusier (1972); M. Bessett, Le Corbusier (1976, repr. 1987); Editors of Phaidon, Le Corbusier Le Grand (2008).

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Le Corbusier

Pseudonym of Charles-Edouard Jenneret; the most influential of 20th century architects. The Villa Savoy, Poissy, France (1931), is typical of his residential designs, freely planned with geometric shapes and using modern construction techniques. He called such houses “machines for living.” The Pavilion Suisse, Paris, France (1932), was built on stilts, and featured curved walls, cubist blocks, and a random rubble wall to contrast with the white concrete. The Unite d’Habitation, Marseilles, France (1946), shows emphasis on mass and on the untreated concrete. The proportions for his buildings were worked out on his “modular system.” He designed Notre-Dame-du-Haut (illus.), Ronchamps, France (1954), which is molded in concrete, to create a huge sculptural form penetrated by windows placed at random. Chandigarh (illus.), East Punjab, India (1956), was planned as a new state capital, but only three buildings were completed. Late work includes the Carpenter Center, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA (1963).
Illustrated Dictionary of Architecture Copyright © 2012, 2002, 1998 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All rights reserved
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Le Corbusier


(pseudonym of Charles Edouard Jeanneret). Born Oct. 6, 1887, in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland; died Aug. 27, 1965, in Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, the Riviera, France. French architect and architectural theorist.

Le Corbusier, the son of an artisan, studied decorative applied art at the School of Art in La Chaux-de-Fonds. He studied and worked with the architects J. Hoffmann in Vienna (1907), A. Perret in Paris (1908–10), and P. Behrens in Berlin (1910–11). Beginning in 1917 he lived in Paris. Having become involved with painting, Le Corbusier worked out the theory of purism with A. Ozenfant in 1918. Four years later he established an architectural studio with his cousin P. Jeanneret, with whom he collaborated until 1940.

Le Corbusier first presented his ideas concerning modern architecture in articles which appeared in the journal L‘Esprit Nouveau (published from 1920 to 1925), as well as in the books Towards a New Architecture (1923) and The City of Tomorrow (1925). Opposing eclecticism and ornamentation that masks the structure of a building, Le Corbusier saw in modern technology and industrialized building a basis for the renovation of the architectural language. He saw rich aesthetic possibilities in revealing the functionally justified structure of a building. Viewing the harmony of the man-made artificial environment as the determining factor of daily life, he held a utopian hope of transforming society with the aid of architecture.

In the 1920’s and 1930’s, Le Corbusier was involved primarily with city planning and the design of housing and large public buildings. The innovation of his architectural proposals consisted in a completely new approach to the problem of highdensity housing, based on a careful analysis of modem life. Le Corbusier reorganized the functions of housing (through rational abbreviation, the blending of old functions, and allowing for new functions that respond not only to the processes of everyday life but also to the intellectual needs of man). He worked out in technological detail the utilization of space in an apartment to provide the maximum comfort, using compact design and counting on the development of centralized facilities and services. Le Corbusier also stressed industrial construction and, in city planning, provided links between an individual dwelling and its surroundings.

Le Corbusier’s designs of the 1920’s included the Citrohan House (1922, model project), the R. La Roche and A. Jeanneret houses in Paris (1923–24; together known as the Le Corbusier Institute since 1970), the housing estate of Pessac near Bordeaux (1925), the villa at Garches, Hautes-de-Seine Department (1927), and the Villa Savoye in Poissy (1929–31).

These projects led Le Corbusier to formulate the “five points of new architecture”: the building raised on pilotis (stilts), the flat roof with a roof garden, free interior plan, ribbon windows, and the free facade. His buildings of this period are characterized by simple geometric forms, smooth white facades, and broad glass surfaces. The reinforced-concrete skeleton construction permitted the replacement of cellular rooms by functionally divided living spaces that flow into one another. The austerity of the exterior and the polychromy of the interior are reminiscent of Le Corbusier’s painting and his theory of purism.

Le Corbusier was one of the leaders of urbanism, or city planning. His idea of the “vertical” city and park developed in his urban design projects of the 1920’s and 1930’s. The “vertical” city was to have a high population density, large areas of greenery, separation of pedestrian and vehicular traffic, and separate residential, commercial, and industrial zones (project for a city of 3 million, 1922; the Voisin plan for the reconstruction of Paris, 1925; plan for Buenos Aires, 1930; plan for Algiers, 1930–39; plan for Antwerp, 1932; plan for Nemours, Algeria, 1934—none of these projects was ever realized).

A number of Le Corbusier’s theoretical proposals formed the basis of The Athens Charter, which was adopted by the fourth International Congress for Modern Architecture in 1933; these proposals were also set forth in Le Corbusier’s books The Radiant City (1935) and The Three Human Establishments (1945).

In the 1920’s and 1930’s, Le Corbusier’s principles of architecture were realized in several major buildings, including the Tsentrosoiuz building in Moscow (now the Central Statistics Administration; 1928–35, with the participation of N. D. Kolli), the Swiss dormitory at the University of Paris (1930–32), and the Salvation Army Hostel in Paris (1932–33); these architectural principles also appeared in the plans for the unexecuted projects of the Palace of the League of Nations in Geneva (1927) and the Palace of the Soviets in Moscow (1931).

In the 1940’s, Le Corbusier studied the question of architectural space and created the modulor, a system of harmoniously linked dimensions based on the proportions of the human body, which he proposed as the unit of measurement for building and artistic construction. His works of the 1950’s are marked by a powerful yet subtly nuanced plasticity (sun-shielding projections and curved surfaces), strongly expressed structural elements that actively interact with the environment, effects of light and space, the contrasting juxtaposition of materials of different textures, the combination of uniform prefabricated units with projecting sculptural constructions, and a rich polychromy (apartment house in Marseille, 1947–52, prototype of a series of “dwelling units” built in the 1950’s in other cities; Ronchamp Chapel, 1950–54; the Dominican friary La Tourette in Evieux, near Lyon, 1956–59). In a large cycle of works in India (1950–57), Le Corbusier realized some of his city-planning ideas (the general plan of the city of Chandigarh and several of its government buildings; museums, villas, and the Textile Associations building in Ahmadabad).

In his buildings of the late 1950’s and 1960’s, Le Corbusier paid particular attention to the organization of interior space, integrating it not only horizontally but also vertically (by combining various levels and doing away with the rigid division into floors); to the regularities of the interior’s visual and emotional effect; and to the correlation of the functional scheme of a building with its architectural structure (the Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo, 1957–59; the Phillips Pavilion at the Brussels World’s Fair of 1958; the Center for Visual Arts at Harvard University in Cambridge, USA, 1964; a hospital in Venice, 1965; and the posthumously built Le Corbusier Center in Zürich, 1967).

Le Corbusier worked in various fields of art during his life. In the 1920’s and 1940’s he often did easel paintings. In the 1940’s and 1950’s he painted murals, designed rugs, and created sculptures.

Le Corbusier’s system of theoretical views and his works greatly influenced the development of modern architecture. His designs in many ways departed from the main tendencies of modern architecture—functionalism and rationalism—yet they revealed the specific purpose of a building and used the latest achievements in science and technology.


Oeuvre complete, 1910–1965, vols. 1–8. Zürich, 1929–70.
In Russian translation:
Planirovka goroda. Moscow, 1933.
Arkhitektura 20 veka. [Moscow] 1970.
Tvorcheskii put’. Moscow, 1970.


Arkin, D. “Le Korbiuz’e.” In Arkhitektura sovremennogo Zapada. Moscow, 1932.
Kolli, N. “Arkhitektor Le Korbiuz’e.” Arkhitektura SSSR, 1965, no. 12.
Ern, I. “Le Korbiuz’e.” Dekorativnoe iskusstvo SSSR, 1966, no. 1.
Gauthier, M. Le Corbusier.… Paris [1944].
Choay, F. Le Corbusier. New York, 1960.
Besset, M. Qui était Le Corbusier? Geneva-Paris, 1968.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

Le Corbusier

real name Charles ?douard Jeanneret. 1887--1965, French architect and town planner, born in Switzerland. He is noted for his use of reinforced concrete and for his modular system, which used units of a standard size. His works include Unit? d'Habitation at Marseilles (1946--52) and the city of Chandigarh, India (1954)
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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2), forms one of the points of departure for 'Le Corbusier: The Measures of Man' (29 April-3 August), an exhibition at a very un-Corbusian building, the Centre Pompidou, whose anti-classical mesh of machine parts is the antithesis of a designer who was obsessed for most of his life with reconciling, without compromise, classical values and modern technology.
* In 1997, Le Corbusier's portrait was included on the ten-franc Swiss bank notes