Corbusier: painter, sculptor, city planner, architect, furniture designer. A genius to some, yet injudicious to others. Whatever your take on him it cannot be argued that he influenced, more than any other architect, the built world of the twentieth century and therefore is a true design legend.
Born in Switzerland as Charles-Édouard Jeanneret-Gris in 1887, he was always interested in the visual arts. For the most part of his early adult life he often escaped his small home town and travelled around Europe, training under architectural and art pioneers of the time. Where he was greatly influenced as he learnt new skills, new industrial techniques and new politics along the way. Before finally settling in Paris after the first world war was over. It was during this time his thoughts moved to the living conditions in the Parisian Slums.
He began to develop theoretical urban ideas to improve the life of the lower classes and believed it was modern architectural forms that would help create organization and order. It was these large scale city planning ideas that occupied him for decades, leading to the design for Unite d’habitation in 1952, which has been described as having given birth to the tower block. The difference between this and modern day flats is that inside there are 23 different apartment configurations, to accommodate single people to large families, each apartment usually being double height and containing a deep set balcony. It was his aim that all people should live in quality conditions.
“Space and light and order. Those are the things that men need just as much as they need bread or a place to sleep.” This one quotation sums up Le Corbusier‘s vision. He was an idealist who believed that architecture had lost its way and that there was too much ornamentation and complicated additions on structures. These were ruining the balance and harmony of the building. He believed things were at their most beautiful when they were stripped back to their purist form and their aesthetic look came from the function.
Thus being a pioneer for the Purism movement which believed in using the golden ratio as a measure in proportioning their designs, and which focused on geometric shapes and basic forms. Examples of this can be seen in the Villa Savoye, a home built on columns that allowed the garden to flow underneath and took away the need for load bearing walls meaning walls could be place where the user needed them. Complete with a roof garden to give back the green space taken away by building. The windows are lined horizontally given even light throughout the space.
It’s clear to see that without the influence of Le Corbusier modern life as we live it would not be the same. The fact that the majority the furniture he designed would suit a contemporary home and is still widely sought after is evidence of how forward thinking he was. His ideas were there to solve social living conditions as he saw them, sometimes these ideas were taken and mass produced in a way that lacked his skill, passion, care and overall vision.
The idea of open plan living that is so popular nowadays began as part of his free flowing interior ideas in his villa designs. He helped establish and develop the use of reinforced concrete in buildings, and not just in large tower blocks but in innovative ways such as its use in the Notre Dame Church, where his understanding of the importance of light in design also shines through.