Le Corbusier (Born Charles-Edouard Jeanneret- 1887-1965) was a Swiss-French Architect, Designer, Painter, Urban Planner, Sculptor and Writer. One of the iconic legends of modernism and the most influential Architect of the 20th century still admired and even worshipped in architectural circles.
Le Corbusier, with other legends of modernism pioneered the development of the famous BAUHAUS MOVEMENT in 1919, at Weimar, Germany, envisioned by one of the iconic legends, Walter Gropius, as landmark in modern, functionalist design, architecture, art and technology centre.
The most basic tenets of the BAUHAUS was FORM FOLLOWS FUNCTION. Other iconic legends in the movement include Mies Van Der Rohe of the famous Skin and Bones architecture and Less Is More slogans, Wassily Kandinsky, Hannes Meyer, Paul Klee, Josef Albers, Laszlo Moholy-Naggy, et al.
Le Corbusier’s mastery of modern architecture and design philosophy was inspired by the mathematical concepts of the Renaissance great master, Leonardo Da Vinci’s golden ratio and Fibonacci series which later led to his concept of modulor, an anthropometric scale of proportion based on the study of human body proportions.
Le Corbusier’s designs combine the functionalism of the modern movement with bold structural expressionism with emphasis on rough-cast concrete. His concepts of urban planning, zoning and industrial cities shocked and seduced a global audience. Notable among some of his works include, villa savoye, villa la Roche and unite’ d’habitation.
In 1947 Le Corbusier in collaboration with 31 other renowned designers and architects from the founding nations of the United Nations, under Wallace K Harrison, who headed the consortium as International Design Team, were commissioned by the united Nations to create a befitting new world headquarters on a 17 acre plot of land in new York city, donated by the American-international businessman/philanthropist, John D Rockefeller.
The team evaluated 50 design schemes. However as predetermined, Le Corbusier’s scheme 23 and Oscar Niemeyer’s scheme 32 were selected. In the end, Niemeyer’s was selected over Le Corbusier’s. Ironically, Le Corbusier skillfully and tactfully imposed his design on Niemeyer for the General Assembly Complex which would ultimately destroy Niemeyer’s vision, yet Niemeyer allowed the changes. Later Oscar Niemeyer stated “I felt he would like to do his project and he was the master, I do not regret my decision”. And so, the United Nations plan came to fruition as collaboration of Oscar Niemeyer’s 39 storey tower and Le Corbusier’s obliq hiue general assembly building.
Le Corbusier and his co-twentieth century iconic legends of modernism and other masters of contemporary architecture and their movements, whether neo-classical, functionalism, structuralism, brutalism, purism, usonian, cubism, metabolism, organic, futuristic, minimalism, incremental, were all inspired by the foundational philosophies, theories concepts and principles set by the Renaissance’s “TRINITY OF GREAT MASTERS” in Rome, Greece and parts of Europe.
Architecture, art or the humanities cannot be complete without first appreciating the great works of the “TRINITY OF MASTERS” of the Renaissance: Leonardo Da Vinci, a genius with major works such as the Mona Lisa, vitruvian man, the last supper, he was a scientist attracted by all branches of knowledge. Others in the league of “TRINITY OF GREAT MASTERS” include Michelangelo, Raphael Sazio, Donatello Di Nicolo Di Betto Bardi. Other Architects and artists of the Renaissance are Filipo Brunelleschi, Leon Battista Albeoti, Andrea Palladio, et al. Renaissance architecture, art and the humanities have set a landmark in the history of our contemporary world such that “a pilgrimage to Rome” to study the ancient buildings and ruins, especially the Colosseum and pantheon is essential to an architect’s training where architectural classical orders: Doric, Gothic, Ionic and Corinthian and architectural elements such as columns, arches, entablatures and domes form the vocabulary of buildings, vitruvian writing also have influenced the Renaissance definition of architecture.
Le Corbusier once described Stockholm architecture as frightening chaos and saddening monotony. His declarations are “a house is a machine for leaving”, “a curved street is a donkey track, a straight street, a road for men”, “space and light and order, those are things that men need just as much as they need bread or place to sleep”, “chairs are architecture, sofas are bourgeois”.
Le Corbusier’s philosophy of industrialisation as emphasised in most of his urban planning has greatly influenced contemporary architecture which made him an unparalleled icon in the modernist movement. Some of Le Corbusier’s uncountable disciples that continued to spread his philosophy and principles globally include Junzo Sakakura, Charlotte Pertains, French Architect and interior designer known for her iconic 20th century furniture. Kenzo Tenge, Japanese and one of the most influential Architects and urban planners of the 20th century. His works covered five continents of the world, including design of the detail plan of Abuja central area, Nigeria’s new federal capital between 1979 and 1982. He was a Master of structuralism and influential patron of metabolism movement.
Others to mention in the modernist movement one way or the other who collaborated with BAUHAUS MOVEMENT or Le Corbusier were: the structural rationalist, Auguste Perret, Peter Behrens, H P Bariage of the geometric saying “time alters fashion but that which is founded on geometry and real science remains unalterable”, Frank Gehry, Tadao Ando, the international-Iraqi quintessential and powerful Architect, late Zaha Hadid with her unparalleled style “futuristic Architecture”, Kengo Kuma, et al.
Worthy of mention is the 2016 Pritzker Prize award winner, Chilean Architect and founder of “Do Tank” Firm Elemental. According to him, Architects are never taught the right thing, universities are failing to give Architects the training that will enable them to find solutions for an imminent global housing crisis. He strongly believes in the provision of affordable housing. Master of Elemental geometric forms, urbanism, purism, functionalism and one of the greatest proponents of the controversial brutalism, Le Corbusier remains the most influential Architect of the 20th century. Le Corbusier died while swimming in the Mediterranean sea against his doctor’s advice on Friday, 27 August, 1965, exactly the day this Writer was born.
Daya, an Architect, writes from Kaduna.