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Le Corbusier (1887-1965), born Charles-Édouard Jeanneret-Gris in La Chaux-de-Fonds (Switzerland), is considered by many to be the most influential architect of the twentieth century. Educated in his hometown in the Arts and Crafts tradition under his mentor Charles L’Éplattenier, his early training included important travels and periods of work in the offices of the Perret Brothers (Paris) and Peter Behrens (Berlin). He settled permanently in Paris in 1917, after which he encountered the modernist painter Amedée Ozenfant who would have a significant influence on his work; together they established Purism and the L’Esprit Nouveau journal. During this period he also took the name Le Corbusier derived from the name of a relative. The 1920s saw Le Corbusier emerge as one of the leading modern architects internationally with his designs for a series of villas and projects for the modern city. His ‘white’ architecture of this period was inspired by modern machines, including early aircraft, automobiles, and ocean liners, along with an abiding interest in architectural history. Many of his ideas were captured in two important publications: Vers une architecture (1923) and Urbanisme (1925). In the early 1930s he sought larger commissions internationally and his architecture evolved away from the Purist work of the 1920s with the adoption of vernacular elements.
As the political climate in Europe changed in the late 1930s Le Corbusier’s career struggled leading him to take desperate measures. For example, during World War II, he attempted unsuccessfully to secure commissions from the Vichy regime controlling southern France. During this period he also began work on his Modulor measurement system. At the end of the work he reestablished his office in Paris and embarked on a creative and productive period that would last until his death by drowning in 1965. Of particular importance was the Unité d’Habitation project in Marseilles, begun in 1946, which allowed him to develop his ideas for collective housing; this project also signaled the emergence of his ‘brutalist’ period. His formal experiments also broadened with works such as the pilgrimage church of Notre Dame-du-Haut at Ronchamp and the monastery of La Tourette. In 1950 he was invited to India, where he was engaged to take over the master plan of the new capital city of the Punjab at Chandigarh. This allowed him to test his urban theories and to develop designs for the Capitol complex. A series of late work demonstrated Le Corbusier’s continuing experiments in architecture. Often unfairly maligned for the failings of modern urbanism, Le Corbusier’s legacy continues to evolve.
This four-volume collection of writings on the career and legacy of Le Corbusier traces the various periods of his life from his early training to his final projects. The writings, by Le Corbusie