Le Corbusier (Charles-Édouard Jeanneret) with Pierre Jeanneret. Villa Savoye, Poissy-sur-Seine, France. 1932. with Pierre Jeanneret. Wood, aluminum, and plastic, 16 x 34 x 32" (40.6 x 86.4 x 81.3 cm), Le Corbusier (Charles-Édouard Jeanneret), Theodore Conrad. Purchase. © 2023 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris/FLC

“Architecture is a system of thought.”

Le Corbusier

In 1923, in his book Vers une architecture (Towards a New Architecture), architect and designer Le Corbusier declared houses to be “machines for living in.” While this phrase speaks to his belief that good design should be functional, Le Corbusier was equally invested in marrying utilitarianism with “poetry, beauty, and harmony.” Rejecting earlier movements like Art Nouveau for their celebration of ornament, historical nostalgia, and lack of functionality, he embraced the work of American engineers—in the form of machines, factory complexes, and grain silos—as a foundation for a new, modern architectural language.

Charles-Edouard Jeanneret adopted the name “Le Corbusier” (derived from a family surname, Lecorbésier) for his architectural persona in 1920. A prolific writer and lecturer, he founded the influential magazine L’Esprit nouveau with French painter Amédée Ozenfant and Belgian writer Paul Dermée in 1919. In the journal’s first several issues, Le Corbusier articulated his thoughts about “volume,” “surface,” and “plan,” which he considered the central components of modern architecture and urban planning. He republished these essays in Vers une architecture, in which he also famously described the "five points of architecture”: pilotis (reinforced-concrete columns), the free plan, the free facade, horizontal bands of windows, and the roof garden.

In 1932, the architect incorporated these concepts into the Villa Savoye, a weekend house outside Paris. He also expanded the application of his five points to mass housing, most successfully in the form of the Unité d’habitation, a model for concrete apartment housing; its best-known iteration was built in 1945 in Marseille, France. The Unité was the only realized architectural component of Le Corbusier’s Ville Radieuse (Radiant City), a proposal for a utopian megalopolis that would allow for the seamless integration of humankind with nature and the 20th century’s technological innovations.

In the 1950s, Le Corbusier came to more widely embrace curvilinear, organic forms alongside the linear geometry that had informed much of his early work. While this shift can be seen in projects such as the Chandigarh Assembly Hall, nowhere is it more evident than in his Notre-Dame du Haut, a chapel constructed in 1955 in Ronchamp, France. Its curved masonry walls, created partially with rubble in reference to pre-industrial building techniques, are punctuated by an irregular array of stained-glass windows.

Le Corbusier’s emphasis on the purity of geometric form and revolutionary work in reinforced concrete still loom large within the field of architecture today. He was also a visual artist, producing work ranging from Cubist paintings to figurative tapestries. He may have emphasized simplified, streamlined volumes and shapes, but his aims were anything but modest; good architecture, he argued, has the capacity to reach to the core of human existence. In his words, “The architect, through the ordonnance of forms [...] determines the diverse movements of our minds and our hearts; it is then that we experience beauty.”

Note: Opening quote is from Le Corbusier, Almanach d'Architecture Moderne (Paris: Les Éditions G. Crès et Cie, 1925), 5, as reproduced and cited in Boyer, M. Christine, and Le Corbusier. Le Corbusier : Homme de Lettres. 1st ed. (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2011), 19.

Mallory Cohen, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Architecture and Design, 2023

Wikipedia entry
Charles-Édouard Jeanneret (6 October 1887 – 27 August 1965), known as Le Corbusier (UK: lə kor-BEW-zee-ay, US: lə KOR-boo-ZYAY, -⁠SYAY, French: [lə kɔʁbyzje]), was a Swiss-French architect, designer, painter, urban planner and writer, who was one of the pioneers of what is now regarded as modern architecture. He was born in Switzerland and acquired French nationality by naturalization on 19 September 1930. His career spanned five decades, in which he designed buildings in Europe, Japan, India, as well as North and South America. He considered that "the roots of modern architecture are to be found in Viollet-le-Duc".Dedicated to providing better living conditions for the residents of crowded cities, Le Corbusier was influential in urban planning, and was a founding member of the Congrès International d'Architecture Moderne (CIAM). Le Corbusier prepared the master plan for the city of Chandigarh in India, and contributed specific designs for several buildings there, especially the government buildings. On 17 July 2016, seventeen projects by Le Corbusier in seven countries were inscribed in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites as The Architectural Work of Le Corbusier, an Outstanding Contribution to the Modern Movement.Le Corbusier remains a controversial figure. Some of his urban planning ideas have been criticized for their indifference to pre-existing cultural sites, societal expression and equality, and his alleged ties with fascism, antisemitism, eugenics, and the dictator Benito Mussolini have resulted in some continuing contention.Le Corbusier also designed well-known furniture such as the LC4 Chaise Lounge Chair, and the ALC-3001 chair, both made of leather with metal framing.
Information from Wikipedia, made available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License
Getty record
Born 6 October 1887; died 27 August 1965. Born as Charles-Edouard Jeanneret, he adopted the pseudonym "Le Corbusier" in 1920, to be used when he was active as an architect and theorist; he used the pseudonym for his paintings from ca. 1930. It derived from his maternal grandfather's name, "Lecorbésier." He emigrated to France in 1917 and was naturalized in 1930. Born into a family of horologists and enamelers, he studied at École d'Art in Chaux-de-Fonds, but was largely self-taught in painting and architecture through study trips. In the 1920s he emerged as the most important architect of the "International Style" in France. He established the Fondation Le Corbusier in Paris to care for and make available to scholars his library, architectural drawings, sketches, and paintings.
Swiss, French
Artist, Author, Architect, Writer, Urban Planner, Designer, Furniture Designer, Tapestry Designer, Painter, Photographer, Sculptor, Textile Artist, Theorist
Le Corbusier, Corbusier, Charles Édouard Jeanneret, Charles Edouard Jeanneret, Charles-Edouard Jeanneret, Charles Édouard Jeanneret-Gris, Charles Edouard Jeanneret-Gris, Charles Edouard Jeanneret- Gris, Charles-Edouard Jeanneret-Gris, Eduard Le Corbusier, Le Corbusier-Saugnier, Corb, Corbu, Le Corbusier Jeanneret, Charles Edouard Jenneret, Charles Édouard Jeanneret- Gris, Edouard le Corbusier, Kebiyi, Korubyujie, Le Korbi︠u︡zʹe, Lu Kūrbūziyah, Ru Korubyujie, Le Corbusier (Charles-Édouard Jeanneret)
Information from Getty’s Union List of Artist Names ® (ULAN), made available under the ODC Attribution License


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