Cambridge Encyclopedia » Cambridge Encyclopedia Vol. 45

Le Corbusier - Early life and education, 1887-1913

paris cité swiss pavilion

Architect and artist, born in La Chaux-de-Fonds, W Switzerland. He left school at age 13 to learn the trade of engraving watch faces. Encouraged by a local art teacher he taught himself architecture, travelling throughout Europe to observe architectural styles. Settling in Paris in 1917, he met Ozenfant, who introduced him to Purism, and with whom he collaborated in writing several articles under his pseudonym (the name of a relative on his father's side). He developed a theory of the interrelation between modern machine forms and architectural techniques, and his first building, based on the technique of the Modulor (a system using units whose proportions were those of the human figure), was the Unité d'habitation (‘living unit’), Marseille (1945–50). Some of his buildings are raised on stilts or piloti, an innovation he first used in the Swiss Pavilion at the Cité Universitaire at Paris. His main interest was large urban projects and city-planning, and although many of his designs were rejected, they influenced other architects throughout the world. Other examples of his work are Chandigarh, the new capital of the Punjab; the Swiss Dormitory in the Cité Universitaire in Paris; and the Exposition Pavilion in Zürich. A project he began in the 1960s with protégé, José Oubrerie, to build the Church of St Pierre in Firminy, SE France, was finally completed by Oubrerie in 2006.

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