Le Corbusier, 1887-1965
By Lily Spencer
Charles-Edouard Jeanneret was born in Switzerland on 6th October, 1887, but in 1917 he moved to Paris and took on the alias “Le Corbusier.” As an architect and urban planner of astonishing vision and originality, his work came to define the modern era. Being a member of the first generation of the international school of architecture, he promoted the functionality of buildings, famously describing a house as a ‘machine for living.’ His principles were of clean lines, open living spaces, roof terraces and equality. However, he combined this functionality with an aesthetic appreciation that seemed, despite his rejection of eighteenth and nineteenth century neoclassicism, to embody the balance and harmony usually associated with classical architecture.
He began training as a watchmaker at the Ecole des Arts Decoratifs at La Chaux-de-Fonds, following his father and the tradition of the region, but here he met the painter l’Eplattenier who encouraged him to become an architect. On his suggestion, Le Corbusier travelled to Italy and Greece, where he was inspired by renaissance and classical architecture. As mentioned, he did not take the forms of this architecture, but he acquired an appreciation for geometry and proportion, which allowed him to harness the harmony and calm that is inspired by classical architecture. He then moved to Paris, where he steeped himself in the artistic world that was flourishing there.
In his earlier period he mainly built villas on private commission, which led to some of his most iconic buildings, such as the Villa Savoye in Poissy, but his real passion and interest was in building for large groups of people. Like many modernists, he was an idealist and he sought to reinvent society in a more equal manner, stripping away the horrors of the past. He believed that by revolutionising one’s surroundings, you could revolutionise one’s thoughts. To fulfil this, he participated in various idealistic competitions, such as the design for the League of Nations building (the predecessor to the U. N.) and in 1927 he participated in the international exhibition the Deutscher Werkbund. But it was only after the Second World War that he had the opportunity to put these ideas into greater action. He built some of the first multi-storey apartment blocks in the modern style and was one of the first architects to use reinforced concrete. He then began even larger projects abroad; most notably he worked as the architectural advisor on the new Punjab capital, Chandigarh, where he was allowed to work with more freedom and with fewer adherences to local tradition and aesthetic.
He died, probably of a heart attack, while swimming in 1965 and he was given a state funeral in Paris, which took place in the courtyard of the Louvre and was broadcast all over the world.
Bates, Rebecca. "Le Corbusier's Most Significant Projects," Architectural Digest online. Accessed 2nd October, 2017. https://www.architecturaldigest.com/gallery/le-corbusier-best-buildings-slideshow/all
"Le Corbusier," Biography.come entry. Accessed 2nd October, 2017. https://www.biography.com/people/le-corbusier-9376609
"Le Corbusier," Encyclopaedia Britannica online. Accessed 2nd October, 2017. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Le-Corbusier