Le Corbusier: Icon Of French Modernism

Fondation Suisse, Le Corbusier
Fondation Suisse, Le Corbusier | ©Beatriz Forti
Beatriz Forti

Charles-Édouard Jeanneret-Gris, mostly known as Le Corbusier, was a unique figure in both the architectural and artistic fields due to his Modernist approach during the twentieth century.

Le Corbusier

He was born in 1887 in La Chaux-de-Fonds, a small city in Switzerland, where he studied architecture and began to paint. Delighted by the idea of discovering new influences beyond the ones found in the provincial city, he started to travel around Europe, and stationed himself in Paris in 1908 when he found a job in Auguste Perret’s office. Through Perret, Le Corbusier gets to know artists Juan Gris, George Braque, Pablo Picasso and Amédée Ozanfant. In order to separate the artist from the art critic, Le Corbusier adopted his pseudonym in 1920, as a tribute to his maternal grandfather. That same year, he launched L’Esprit Nouveau magazine with Ozenfant and Paul Dermée, where they published a manifest that praised the new movement of Purism.

In 1922 he opened an architecture studio in the 6th arrondissement of Paris with his cousin, Pierre Jeanneret. Until 1927, they designed, using concrete and geometric forms, several private houses for clients around the city, including Villa Stein-de Monzie, Maison Planeix and the Maison La Roche, which is now the Fondation Le Corbusier and can be visited from Monday to Saturday.

Villa La Roche
Villa Savoye

Corbusier’s architectural legacy in Paris is plentiful, and several of his creations remain open to the public. For instance, the Suisse Pavilion, a student residence in the Cité Universitaire de Paris, was commissioned to Le Corbusier in 1930. After designing four versions of the building, he produced the final one, with 42 student rooms, a breakfast area and entrance hall, that are accessible (ground floor and one sample apartment) every day.

Fondation Suisse

In addition to the Swiss Pavillion in Paris’ Cité Universitaire, the Brazilian student residency was also designed by the swiss-french architect. Although it was first assigned to the Brazilian architect, Lucio Costa, he decided to delegate the construction of the ‘Maison du Brésil‘ to his friend Le Corbusier, who significantly changed the original project. In 1959, the place was inaugurated with 90 rooms, 5 flats, a library, and a theater with a dance floor. As in the majority of his buildings, his famous ‘Five Point’ rule is also evidently displayed. Le Corbusier’s theory of measurement, ‘Le Modulor,’ is also visible in this building when you consider its well balanced proportions.

Maison du Brésil

Le Corbusier was strongly inspired by the geometric concepts of Leonardo daVinci and the Fibonacci series, from which he developed his book, ‘Le Modulor.’ Created to attend real space necessity and based on the dimensions of the human body, it was first defined with 1,75m and later with 1,83m, to avoid using the metric system. It developed into an incredibly useful measuring system during the post-war construction, when it became necessary to lodge a considerably large number of people in smaller places.

Le Modulor

One of his masterpieces was the Unité d’habitation (residential building) called Cité Radieuse, which was built in Marseille. If you don’t have the chance to make a trip to the south of France, you can go to the Cité de l’Architecture, at Trocadéro and visit a true to size mockup of the Cité Radieuse. It is truly impressive to admire the dimension system used by the architect, and you can imagine all the air and light that would come through the wide windows and the double height living room with its balcony. Additionally, the modern room of the museum is a dreamy place for all those architecture-lovers, with all the replicas and models — and an amazing view of the Eiffel Tour is a plus!

Model of Cité Radieuse’ apartment

Part of Le Corbusier’s fame and prestige was due to the diversity and originality of his buildings; author of other masterpieces such as The Convent of La Tourette, Ronchamp, Unité d’Habitation and Firminy, he bestowed upon each of his buildings a personality of its own! Le Corbusier was also the author of several remarkable books, such as ‘Towards an architecture,’ ‘Athens Charter,’ ‘Creation is a Patient Search,’ and many others.

Église Saint-Pierre de Firminy

Not only did he turn out to be one of the most brilliant architects of his time, he also influenced younger, international architects such as Lucio Costa and Oscar Niemeyer in the construction of Brasilia, which was strongly based on the plans of the Ville Radieuse.

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