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In Perspective: Remembering Le Corbusier

Le Corbusier

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“A house is a machine for living in” is among Le Corbusier’s most famous declarations. He is one of the most influential architects of the 20th century, whose work expressed a unique and aesthetically dynamic vision. He was a pioneer of the modern movement in architecture and most prominent in the sphere of urban planning. His buildings and urban plans inspired the ideas and direction of many other architects.

From the domineering United Nations Headquarters in New York, to the steel-framed Heidi Weber Museum in Switzerland, Le Corbusier, designed a number of stunning buildings. He followed a set of strict architectural principles which he called “The Five Points of New Architecture”. He developed these points in his book, Vers une architecture, in which he also argues against classical architecture and historical styles, in favour of modern architecture. He has also designed many houses all over the world, such as the neo-classical Villa Jeanerette-Perrett, his first independent project. He revolutionised urban designs with his use of reinforced concrete and theoretical approach to design.

Born Charles Edourard Jeannert, it was in 1917 when he moved to Paris that he adopted the pseudonym Le Corbusier, an alteration of his grandfather’s name. He created the persona to better separate his architecture work and critical writing works. Whilst in Paris, he designed The Esprit Nouvea Pavilion, which was built for the 1925 International Exhibition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts. The construction was one of Le Corbruiser’s most important early works, as it displayed his innovative ideas on architecture and urbanism, and the pavilion was designed and built in collaboration with his cousin, Pierre Jeanneret and Amdee Ozenfant. The pavilion was intended to represent the future of urban housing, but it faced significant criticism because Art Nouvea was regarded primarily as a decorative art, such as for sculptures, interiors designs and paintings. Many people rejected the unusual nature of Espirit Nouvea, but it marked the foreground for Le Corbuisier’s artistic and modernist movement.

It is widely believed Le Corbusier fully established his modernist vision when he designed the Villa Savoye, as it most evidently expresses his “Five Points of Modern Architecture”. These include pilotis that elevate the building from the ground, a functional roof serving as a garden and terrace, open-plan interiors, ribbon windows for light and ventilation, and freely-designed facades. It was one of the most important houses of the 20th century, as it had a tremendous influence on modernism all across the world. It is one of the only houses in France to have been declared a national monument during Le Corbusier’s lifetime.

Other remarkable architecture of Le Corbusier includes the chapel of Notre Dame du Haut, which was completed in 1954, an iconic religious building and one the first modernist churches. With its stained glass, high ceilings and tower, it’s not a complete deviation from traditional church architecture. However, it has an upturned roof and different shaped windows, cutting through the walls, which are another example of Le Corbusier’s modern aesthetic.

Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Le Corbusier became increasingly active on an international scale. By the end of his life, he was an internationally renowned architect, having designed the National Museam of Western Art in Tokyo and the Carpenter Visual Arts Centre at Harvard University in 1964. These proved to be his final projects as he died suddenly in 1965 while swimming. He was given a national funeral and the Le Corbusier Foundation was created in 1968, an archive honouring his work.

Le Corbuiser was one of the many influential modernist architects who emerged in the 1920s, but his modern aesthetic has had a lasting influence on today’s contemporary architecture. He made an extraordinary contribution to the modernist movement, and in 2016, seventeen of his buildings were declared World Heritage sites. Imitations of his work can be found worldwide and there’s no doubt he is one of the most important architects of the 20th century.

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