Design Spotlight: Le Corbusier

Le Corbusier was a Swiss-born French architect who belonged to the first generation of the so-called International school of architecture.

“I prefer drawing to talking. Drawing is faster, and leaves less room for lies.”
—Le Corbusier

Le Corbusier was born Charles-Edouard Jeanneret-Gris in Switzerland on October 6, 1887. In 1917, he moved to Paris and assumed the pseudonym Le Corbusier.

In his architecture, he chiefly built with steel and reinforced concrete and worked with elemental geometric forms. Le Corbusier's painting emphasized clear forms and structures, which corresponded to his architecture.

After designing his first house, in 1907, at age 20, Le Corbusier took trips through central Europe and the Mediterranean, including Italy, Vienna, Munich and Paris. His travels included apprenticeships with various architects, most significantly with structural rationalist Auguste Perret, a pioneer of reinforced concrete construction, and later with renowned architect Peter Behrens, with whom Le Corbusier worked from October 1910 to March 1911, near Berlin.

These trips played a pivotal role in Le Corbusier’s education. He made three major architectural discoveries. In various settings, he witnessed and absorbed the importance of (1) the contrast between large collective spaces and individual compartmentalized spaces, an observation that formed the basis for his vision of residential buildings and later became vastly influential; (2) classical proportion via Renaissance architecture; and (3) geometric forms and the use of landscape as an architectural tool.

In 1912, Le Corbusier returned to La Chaux-de-Fonds to teach alongside L’Eplattenier and to open his own architectural practice. He designed a series of villas and began to theorize on the use of reinforced concrete as a structural frame, a thoroughly modern technique. 

This design system became the backbone for most of Le Corbusier’s architecture for the next 10 years.