Le Corbusier

Le Corbusier shärl ādwärˈ zhänərāˈ [key], 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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