Le Corbusier, born Charles-Edouard Jeanneret-Gris in 1887 in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland, studied painting and architecture at the local École d’Art.
In 1907, he worked for Josef Hofmann in Vienna, where he also made the acquaintance of Adolf Loos. Another important influence came when he was working in Paris in 1909 for over a year in the practice of Auguste Perret, a pioneering exponent of building with reinforced concrete using steel. During this period, he also visited the architect and urban planner Tony Garnier in Lyon. It was not long before Le Corbusier was focusing on modern reinforced concrete architecture.
In 1917, Le Corbuiser moved to Paris. Because he only was granted several architectural commissions at the time, much of his time was spent painting, producing mainly still lifes.
In 1919, Le Corbusier joined the painter Amédée Ozenfant and the poet Paul Dermée to found the journal “L’Esprit Nouveau”. It was at this time which Charles-Edouard Jeanneret-Gris first began referring to himself as Le Corbusier. It is believed the name is derived from a distant relative of Jeanneret-Gris, “Lecorbusier”. His intention in taking a pseudonym was to reinvent himself as an artisan.
In 1922, Le Corbusier produced an urban planning concept for a Ville Contemporaine – a “contemporary city with a population of three million”. In 1925, he collaborated with his cousin Pierre Jeanneret on designing a two-storied pavilion for the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs in Paris. The avant-garde architecture of that pavilion was complemented by furnishings of functional design and paintings by Le Corbusier, Ozenfant, Fernand Léger, Jacques Lipchitz and others.
By 1927, Le Corbusier was among the leading practitioners of the New Architecture designing the housing for the Weißenhof Settlement in Stuttgart. From 1927, he collaborated with Pierre Jeanneret and Charlotte Perriand to produce designs for functional furniture – including the LC4 chaise longue – which they showed at the 1929 Paris Salon d’Automne.
Around 1942, he formulated his “Modulor” theory, which was Le Corbusier’s term for a system of proportion based on the Golden Mean that he used in his architectural designs, notably in his large-scale urban planning projects. Intended to facilitate architecture on a human scale based on an objective system, the Modular still remains an extremely controversial theoretical approaches to architecture.
Equally controversial is Corbusier’s views on urbanism. His “Ville Contempraine”, housing three million inhabitants was a take on planning. Containing sixty story housing units and large grid layout, Corbusier brought into question the means we move, work and live in cities.
Le Corbusier also made substantial contributions to architecture theory as a co-founder of the Congrès International d’Architecture Moderne (CIAM), which first convened in 1928. In 1952, the first Unité d’Habitation was finished in Marseilles, followed by further modular residential units in other locations. Le Corbusier designed the pilgrimage chapel of Notre-Dame-du-Haut at Ronchamps in 1955.
Le Corbusier died in 1965 in Roquebrune-Cap-Martin.