Happy Birthday to Le Corbusier, Architect & Designer Extraordinaire!

In this post, we’ll be celebrating the birthday and prolific work of Le Corbusier, (October 6, 1887 - August 27, 1965) a Swiss-French pioneer of modern architecture, design, art, urban planning, and writing. Born Charles-Édouard Jeanneret-Gris in a small Swiss town to a watchmaker, Le Corbusier developed his forward-thinking ideas about architecture and design in the 1910s, 1920s, and 1930s while traveling and working under some of the most prominent architects of the era. Although he is best known for his many building designs across the globe (think the Villa Savoye, the Unité d'Habitation and the chapel of Notre Dame du Haut in France; UN Headquarters in New York; and the Capitol Complex in Chandigarh, India), he also designed some of the most iconic pieces of modern furniture that continue to inspire today. Let’s take a look!



One of Le Corbusier’s first ventures into modern furniture design was a collaboration with his cousin Pierre Jeanneret, where the two developed LC Casier Standard -- a system of storage containers for the Pavillon of the Esprit Nouveau in 1925. The stackable wooden containers held adjustable shelves and drawers, and were modular so that they could be interchangeable depending on need. Held up on slim, elegant pedestals, they gave the etherial feeling that the cabinets were almost floating off the ground.




Some of the most famous pieces designed by Le Corbusier were in fact a product of collaboration with his cousin Pierre Jeanneret and designer Charlotte Perriand. Together, they created modern furniture out of tubular steel, exposing the structural skeleton of the pieces rather than hiding them under upholstery and cushions. The collection they developed in 1928 epitomizes this -- the LC3 collection features steel that wraps around the sides of the pieces, acting as a visible exterior skeleton. Their bulkier, larger shape alludes to their intention to replace old, stuffy armchairs.




Another classic furniture piece of the same period of collaboration with Charlotte Perriand and Pierre Jeanneret is the LC1 Sling Chair, which plays with the design relationship of solid (steel and leather) and void (air). Armatures of shining tubular steel with a simple L-shaped back and seat definite this well-known modern chair design, while Le Corbusier’s concerns about practicality, simplicity, and consideration for the body are shown in the way the seat shifts forwards and backwards for maximum comfort.




Even later on in his career, Le Corbusier continued to work with moving, interchangeable parts. In 1957, he designed the LC16 Work Table with Shelving, a wood desk with modular shelving components that could expand for more storage and workspace. I think the simple lines and elegant proportions of the table and shelves -- one of the most important things in Le Corbusier’s designs -- would pair perfectly with a pop of color and a change in material like Furniture Maison’s Lilo Dining Chair in yellow or the Roy Concrete Stool.



While these few pieces might seem simple and understated today, when they debuted, their simple shapes, industrially-minded construction techniques, and interchangeability and modularity were nothing short of revolutionary. Le Corbusier would have been 129 years old this month, but the pieces he designed certainly are considered modern classics today! Better yet, they are so timeless that they can pair almost endlessly with other pieces you have at home, or with whatever new furniture pieces you might have your eye on.

Kate R.

Kate is a New York-based architect and preservationist, with a love for all things design! 


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