Le Corbusier (born October 6, 1887 in , Switzerland) pioneered European modernism in architecture and laid the foundation for what became the Bauhaus Movement in Germany and the International Style in the US. He was born Charles-Edouard Jeanneret-Gris but adopted his mother’s maiden name, Le Corbusier, in 1922 when he set up a partnership with his cousin, engineer Pierre Jeanneret. His writings and theories helped define a new modernism in materials and design.
The young pioneer of modern architecture first studied art education at La Chaux de Fonds in Switzerland. Le Corbusier was never formally trained as an architect, yet he went to Paris and studied modern building construction with Auguste Perret and later worked with Austrian architect Josef Hoffmann. While in Paris, the future Le Corbusier met the French artist Amédée Ozenfant and together they published Après le Cubisme [After Cubism] in 1918. Coming into their own as artists, the pair rejected the Cubists’ fragmented aesthetic for a more stripped-down, machine-driven style they called Purism. Le Corbusier continued his exploration of purity and color in his Polychromie Architecturale, color charts that are still used today.
The earlier buildings by Le Corbusier were smooth, white concrete and glass structures elevated above the ground. He called these works “pure prisms.” In the late 1940s, Le Corbusier turned to a style known as “New Brutalism”, which used rough, heavy forms of stone, concrete, stucco, and glass.The same modernist ideas found in Le Corbusier’s architecture were also expressed in his designs for simple, streamlined furniture. Imitations of Le Corbusier’s chrome-plated tubular steel chairs are still made today.
Le Corbusier is perhaps best known for his innovations in urban planning and his solutions for low income housing. Le Corbusier believed that the stark, unornamented buildings he designed would contribute to clean, bright, healthy cities. Le Corbusier’s urban ideals were realized in the Unité d’Habitation, or the “Radiant City,” in Marseilles, France. The Unite incorporated shops, meeting rooms, and living quarters for 1,600 people in a 17-story structure. Today, visitors can stay at the Unite in the historic Hotel Le Corbusier. Le Corbusier died August 27, 1965 in Cap Martin, France.