Friday, September 18, 2009

Design Friday: Le Corbusier

Le Corbusier (pronounced: Lay Core-BOO-zee-ay) is arguably the most influential architect of the 20th century. He was born in Switzerland in 1887 as Charles-Edouard Jeanneret (he later chose his grandfather's name as his pseudonym). He was trained as an architect during the time that the Art Deco and Arts and Crafts movements were in full swing, and set out to reinvent architecture. He is famous for his belief that living spaces are a "machine for living", meaning homes should be built to function for people and their needs (such as sun, space, good ventilation, vegetation, insulation from noise, and controlled temperature) and should also use human scale as the measure of dwelling design.

He was the pioneer of the International Style, the key elements of this style being: to raise the building above ground on stilts which support reinforced concrete slabs that can serve as ceiling and floor. This allows exterior walls to hang as curtains and an open, free-flowing interior space which bears no structural load. Lastly, making use of the roof and the space beneath the building. This style largely influenced modern office buildings and skyscrapers, and his concepts were practiced by many architects.

perspective drawing for Domino House (Marseilles, France, 1914)

His approach to architecture also influenced his interest in city planning. He believed that "great cities are the spiritual workshops in which the work of the world is done," and worked at problem solving the inefficiencies in current cities such as poor traffic circulation and little space for recreation or exercise. His theory was to build "vertical cities" (for housing, and the business and service industries) connected by "linear-industrial cities" (which would be centers for manufacturing), with separate centers for agricultural activity. He did design a few vertical cities, such as the Unite d'Habitation (Marseilles, France) and created the master plan for Chandigarh (capital of Punjab, India).

Unite d'Habitation (Marseilles, France, 1945-1952)

Later in his life, he explored a more sculptural approach to architecture by utilizing reinforced concrete, as seen in the Chapel of Notre Dame du Haut.

Notre Dame du Haut (Ronchamp, France, 1950-1955)

- Tansey, Kleiner, "Gardner's Art Through the Ages", 10th Edition, 1996


  1. Sounds like a smart guy. You can tell though from his later life experimentation with reinforced concrete in the Chapel of Notre Dame du Haut that he was going a little delirious.

  2. I borrowed the "Gardner's" book in college and now I'm mad that I don't own it...I like your idea for design Friday. For a long time I've been thinking about setting aside time for brushing up on my Art History too, but my follow-through sucks!

  3. Doug-
    Respect the classics.

    Glad you're enjoying Design Friday! For me, follow-through is a lot more likely to happen if I have a deadline.