Le Corbusier (October 6, 1887 – August 27, 1965) will forever be known as an icon of Modernism, but did you know that the man who changed the face of architecture led quite the colorful personal life? In honor of his 125th birthday, take a moment to check out some Corbu classics (perhaps Convent of La Tourette, Ronchamp, Villa Savoye, Unite d’Habitation, or Villa Roche) and read on to learn more about the man behind the myth – Charles-Édouard Jeanneret. Fun Facts About Le Corbusier (including what Salvador Dalí had to say about him. It isn’t pretty) after the break!
Things You Didn’t Know About Le Corbusier… After meeting Josephine Baker on an ocean liner to Europe from South America, Le Corbusier drew nude sketches of the famous actress. While Le Corbusier married a fashion model by the name of Yvonne Gallis, he maintained a long-term affair with Swedish-American heiress Marguerite Tjader Harris.
Le Corbusier and Urban Planning Le Corbusier’s plans for Ville Contemporaine, a series of sixty-story, cruciform skyscrapers (never built) included plans for rooftop airports so commercial airliners could fly between skyscrapers. Le Corbusier designed the first planned city in India – Chandigarh. The layout was based on the plans he conceptualized in his book La Ville Radieuse (The Radiant City), which itself was an update on ideas for Ville Contemporaine. Le Corbusier’s theories as an Urban Planner have been hotly contested, perhaps none more so than by Jane Jacobs: ”Le Corbusier’s Utopia was a condition of what he called maximum liberty, by which he seems to have meant not liberty to do anything much, but liberty from ordinary responsibility.”
Le Corbusier and Politics Le Corbusier’s famous saying, “Architecture or Revolution,” came from his belief that an efficient, industrialized architecture was the only way to avoid class-based revolution. His arguments would solidify in his book, Vers une architecture (Toward an Architecture) and culminate in his most famous work, Villa Savoye. In 1934, he was invited by Benito Mussolini to lecture in Rome. In the early 1940s, Le Corbusier was given an urban planning position by the Vichy government to oversee designs for various cities, including Algiers. When his plans were rejected, Le Corbusier withdrew from political life.
Le Corbusier and Art/Design Le Corbusier adopted his pseudonym (a derivative of his grandmother’s last name) after publishing a manifesto, co-written with artist Amédée Ozenfant, called “Aprés le Cubisme.” Although he was working as a Cubist painter at the time, he felt that Cubism had grown too romantic; thus, the manifesto was his ode to a new artistic movement: Purism. Although Salvador Dalí at one point considered Le Corbusier a “friend,” he was far from complimentary about him upon his death in 1965. He was quoted calling Le Corbusier‘s buildings “the ugliest and most unacceptable buildings in the world” and said that Le Corbusier’s “ death filled me with an immense joy. Le corbusier was a pitiable creature working in reinforced concrete.” However, Dalí’s disdain didn’t stop him from putting flowers on Le Corbusier’s grave, as, in his words, “on the one hand I detested him but on the other hand I am an absolute coward.” Le Corbusier collaborated with the architect Charlotte Perriand and his cousin Pierre Jeanneret to design iconic, modernist furniture. He was quoted as saying: ”Chairs are architecture, sofas are bourgeois.”
Le Corbusier and his Inspirations Le Corbusier was taken with the image of the Open Hand, constructing many sculptures of it over his lifetime. He called it a ”sign of peace and of reconciliation meant to receive the created riches, and to distribute them to the peoples of the world. That should be the symbol of our epoch.” See this cool interview with him discussing the 28-meter Open Hand sculpture in Chandigarh. Le Corbusier’s design philosophy was heavily inspired by mathematical concepts used by Leonard daVinci, such as the golden ratio and the Fibonacci series, which he used as the basis for his architectural proportions.
On August 27, 1965, Le Corbusier went for a swim, against his doctor’s orders, in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of his beloved summer home in the south of France. His body was found by bathers. “Architecture is the masterly, correct, and magnificent play of masses brought together in light.” Le Corbusier, Vers une architecture, 1923 Facts via Wikipedia