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Spotlight: Le Corbusier - Shaping the Architecture of the 20th Century

CEO Khai Intela
Born in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland, Charles-Édouard Jeanneret-Gris, widely known as Le Corbusier, left an enduring legacy as one of the most influential architects of the 20th century. With his multidisciplinary talents encompassing architecture, urban planning,...

Spotlight: Le Corbusier - More Images

Born in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland, Charles-Édouard Jeanneret-Gris, widely known as Le Corbusier, left an enduring legacy as one of the most influential architects of the 20th century. With his multidisciplinary talents encompassing architecture, urban planning, writing, painting, and polemics, Le Corbusier captured the attention of powerful figures worldwide, leaving an indelible mark on the architectural landscape of numerous cities.

A Journey Shaped by Travel and Experience

Spotlight: Le Corbusier Image: © Willy Rizzo

Le Corbusier's architectural journey began in his hometown, where he studied before venturing out to explore Italy, Budapest, and Vienna. His travels ultimately led him to Paris, where he worked under Auguste Perret and Peter Behrens. The latter experience in Berlin exposed him to the emerging modernist movement and industrial design, which would greatly influence his future work.

The Five Points of Architecture - A Revolutionary Approach

Spotlight: Le Corbusier Image: Swiss Pavilion. Image Courtesy of Samuel Ludwig

Le Corbusier's theoretical work gained traction in the 1914-15 period when he developed the Dom-Ino house, proposing a mass production system for flexible housing. However, it was in the pages of L'Esprit Nouveau, a journal he co-founded, that he introduced his revolutionary "five points of architecture." These principles included elevating buildings on pilotis, employing a free plan and facade design, utilizing horizontal ribbon windows for uniform lighting, and integrating flat roofs with rooftop gardens.

A Machine for Living In

Spotlight: Le Corbusier Image: Convent of La Tourette. Image Courtesy of Samuel Ludwig

In his seminal book, "Towards a New Architecture," Le Corbusier proclaimed the house as a "machine for living in," reflecting his vision of merging modern influences such as cars, planes, and ships with architectural design. This notion of architecture as a functional entity, along with his principles, influenced not only his own work but also the entire modernist movement.

The Dichotomy of Le Corbusier's Style

Spotlight: Le Corbusier Image: Chandigarh. Image © Laurian Ghinitoiu

Le Corbusier's career can be divided into two distinct chapters: the period leading up to 1930 and the subsequent years until 1960. While his early work focused on smooth, machine-like modernism, his later designs embraced a contrasting approach, incorporating exposed concrete and monumental scale. This transition marked the birth of "Brutalism," a style synonymous with raw concrete. Notable projects from this period include the Unité d’habitation in Marseille, the chapel of Notre Dame du Haut in Ronchamp, the convent of La Tourette, and the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts.

A Contentious Legacy

Throughout his career, Le Corbusier not only shaped the physical landscape but also advocated for radical urban planning concepts. His ideas heavily emphasized functional design and emphasized the role of the automobile. Le Corbusier's urban proposals and the Athens Charter, which defined modern city planning, have attracted criticism as well. Some argue that his work led to the destruction of traditional neighborhoods and the creation of high-rise social housing blocks. Additionally, his association with political figures like the Vichy government of France and Benito Mussolini has further contributed to debates surrounding his legacy.

The Enduring Influence

Spotlight: Le Corbusier Spotlight: Le Corbusier Spotlight: Le Corbusier Spotlight: Le Corbusier Spotlight: Le Corbusier Images: Various works by Le Corbusier

Le Corbusier's influence on contemporary architecture cannot be overstated. His ideas provided the foundation for modernist architecture and urban planning, with contemporary theory either inspired by or in opposition to his ideals. He fundamentally transformed the practice of architecture, inspiring subsequent figures such as Rem Koolhaas. Today, Le Corbusier's work is considered an integral part of architectural discourse, shaping the very essence of the field itself.

In conclusion, Le Corbusier's multifaceted contributions to the world of architecture continue to shape our built environment. From his innovative design principles to his controversial urban planning visions, his legacy remains a source of both inspiration and debate, cementing his status as an architectural pioneer.

References:

  1. Kenneth Frampton: Modern Architecture: A Critical History (Thames & Hudson, 2007) p.225
  2. Hal Foster: "Bigness," London Review of Books, November 19th, 2001
  3. Alan Plattus: "Le Corbusier: A Dialectical Itinerary" in The Le Corbusier Guide (Princeton Architectural Press, 2000) p.12
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