Masters Of Design: Le Corbusier

Sharp lines, simple silhouettes, and neutral palettes are distinct Le Corbusier style. A pioneer in multiple style movements, including Modern design theory, he introduced powerful ideas while glorifying modern architecture and design. His impact is still felt in several artistic mediums, including art, sculpture, writing, architecture, and furniture décor.

Born in 1887 in a simple town of the Swiss Alps, his close vicinity to France and artistic parents provided powerful influences. His music-teaching mother and watch enameler and engraver father encouraged him to study decorative arts at a young age. Educated in painting, design, and visual arts, Le Corbusier quickly developed a passion for architecture.

With this keen eye and a hunger for more knowledge, Le Corbusier later traveled throughout Europe working, painting, and training under various architects. After eventually settling in Paris, he and a small group of contemporaries developed the painting style Purism. Pulling from heavy Cubism influences, objects are painted as basic forms void of detail. The still life paintings are made of simple shapes and traditional motifs, painted in monochromes and neutrals. It was also here where Charles-Édouard Jeanneret reinvented himself as Le Corbusier. Shortening to just one name was developing into a hip trend, and Le Corbusier was forever ahead of the times.

These lifelong impressions eventually developed into his 1923 book Vers une architecture (Towards An Architecture or Towards A New Architecture), which explored the concepts of Modern design. It’s in this work that Le Corbusier details his architectural principles that he named The Five Points Of Architecture. This manifesto would become the essence of The International Style.

Postwar 1920s weren’t particularly accepting of this sharp, colorless, futuristic style, which loudly celebrated advances in technology and materials. The International Style deemphasized what they viewed as ornamentation, and instead prioritized function and clean, modern, modular forms. Homes of this style are colorless, simple shapes made of steel and glass, with completely straight cuts. Now seen as a visionary, Le Corbusier was often ridiculed by critics, misunderstood by the masses, and forced to self-advocate for his new aesthetics.

Le Corbusier was, unsurprisingly, a loud critic of ornate, handcrafted furniture, and shunned lavish details. He famously declared, “Chairs are architecture, and sofas are bourgeois!” By this point in his career, “bourgeois” clearly meant anything unnecessary or frivolous – an interference with an object’s intended purpose. If a home was meant to be a “machine for living”, interior décor would also have to play its proper role. To Le Corbusier, this meant practical furniture designs with sleek outlines and subtle details. These concepts are evident in his famous LC2 chairs and chaise lounges, which are still incredibly popular and much imitated today. In fact, this furniture style is so influential that pieces are still on display at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

His career lasted several decades, over multiple mediums, and on a variety of continents. The influence of Le Corbusier’s theories continue on nearly a century later, while the popularity of his designs carries on. Modern design was undeniably shaped by his aesthetic, and all lovers of clean lines, modern shapes, and contemporary styles should tip their hat to the incredible visionary that is Le Corbusier.

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