Le Corbusier, before he was Le Corbusier, was a Swiss-born artist named Charles-Edouard Jeanneret. In his early years while studying art it is most surprising to say that he did not wish to be an architect. He wanted to be a painter but he was almost forced to study architecture by his tutor L’Eplattenier, whom Corbusier calls his master and refers to as his only teacher. After traveling through various places such as Europe and the Mediterranean; teaching in Switzerland and working in Germany,he moved to Paris. It is an interesting detail that when Corbusier decided to become a French citizen, it was not written “architect” on his I.D. but “a man of literature”.
In Paris he experienced new art forms and established a new artistic movement called “Purism” along with painter Amédée Ozenfant. They established a purist journal called “L’esprit Nouveau“. In L’esprit Nouveau they basically defended Le Corbusier’s new style of functionalism. In 1923, Le Corbusier published Vers une Architecture (Toward a New Architecture), which collected his writings from L’Esprit Nouveau.
Le Corbusier starts the book “Towards A New Architecture” by stating that architecture is disconnected and lost in the past. On the other hand he states that engineers started to develop new technologies and build simple yet effective structures. He strongly expressed the importance of function also by famously saying “A house is a machine for living in.” Of course considering the time, his newly proposed architecture would also satisfy the demands of industry which were, after the industrial revolution, demands of big importance.
The book also reveals the deep historical analysis of architecture by Corbusier and said to be the final form of his ideas about Rome after seeing it. He states that one has to learn the lesson of Rome. He even makes unexpected comparisons between the Parthenon and a car to emphasize the functionality. Believing the auto was a true symbol of modernity, he even designed cars in his later years.
Vers Une Architecture, drew so much attention at the time because it was proposing a completely new way of handling architecture. It still has a great place in understanding the relationship between architecture, technology and history.
Corbusier wrote the book in a very understandable language so everyone could read it. But we can say that it was especially for architects and architecture students as it was actually a manifesto. At first, the book was to be named Architecture or Revolution . Indeed, the question is answered in the last sentence: Revolution can be avoided.
- Jean-Louis Cohen discussion in event at the Getty Research Institute: Le Corbusier’s Toward an Architecture: From the Bildungsroman to the Manifesto
- Towards an Architecture by Le Corbusier
- Biography of Le Corbusier