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Le Corbusier

Le Corbusier

*  1887 La Chaux-de-Fonds
† 1965 Roquebrune-Cap-Martin

Le Corbusier, who is born as Charles-Edouard Jeanneret in La Chaux-de-Fonds in Switzerland on October 6, 1887, is regarded as one of the most important representatives of architecture and architecture theory of the 20th century. His versatile oeuvre comprises, besides architecture, graphic art, furntiure design and sculptures. This diversity reflects his first education that Le Corbusier received as a painter, engraver and goldsmith, and finally also as an architect in his home town. Study journeys through Greece, Italy and Turkey as well as working stays with Peter Behrens in Berlin and with Auguste Perret in Paris complete his training. Le Corbusier comes into contact with contemporary ideas especially when working with Behrens and Perret, this influence facilitates his early rejection of a historicizing eclecticism and contributes to his first important work, the steel frame concrete construction "Domino" for a standardized housing construction.
Having taught at the art school in Chaux-de-Fonds, Le Corbusier moves to Paris in 1917, where he expresses his approach to art in a more theoretic form. Le Corbusier is co-publisher and co.-founder of the magazine "L`Esprit Nouveau" in 1919, which is to become an organ for his ideas. Le Corbusier had already published the manifesto "Purisme" under the title "Après le Cubisme" together with Amédée Ozenfant one year before. As a reaction to the transformation of the orphistic and synthetic Cubism, they asked for a return to the pure form. The attained rational-reduced representation that should include all arts, is comparable with Bauhaus concepts, integrating standardized serial production.
A next and meaningful contribution to architecture theory followed in 1920 with his "Fünf Punkten zu einer neuen Architektur" (Five points for a new architecture). According to his ideas, the esthetic of a new architecture should be coined by "Pilotis" (free-standing pillars on the ground level, which are supposed to carry the construction), rooftop gardens (flat roofs instead of steep roofs), a free design of footprints and facades as well as the usage of long rows of windows instead of single windows, which was made possible by means of a new static system and new materials. His idea of the "five points" can be observed on the Villa Savoye in Poissy (1929-31) or on buildings of the Weißenhof housing estate in Stuttgart (1927).
At the same time, large urban development projects and visions, such as the Paris "Plan Voisin" (1925) or the "strahlende Stadt" (Lucent City) in 1930 are realized. The large-scale accommodation unit was to become the structural module for the modern city, an idea that Le Corbusier had continuously worked on since "Domino" ("Citrohan" house; "Immeubles-Villes"). The large apartment complex "Unité d'habitation" in Marseilles, a housing estate with 337 apartments created in series between 1945 and 53, Le Corbusier was able to realize his visions. Similar projects were built in Nantes, Berlin and Briey-en-Forèt, which influenced (not only positively) construction of housing estaes in the 1960s.
The construction of individual buildings is in the focus of Le Corbusier's late work. A famous example thereof is the curvy church of pilgrimage Notre-Dame-du-Haut in Ronchamps - an objects that is not only functional: Le Corbusier's later style is characterized by a more subjective, exaggerated and very expressive use of forms. Le Corbusier dies at the age of 78 on August 27, 1965, leaving behind a both comprehensive and diverse oeuvre.

Gans, Deborah: The Le Corbusier Guide, Princeton 1987.