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Le Corbusier

Swiss born architect, theorist and designer Le Corbusier (1887-1965) worked and wrote with a unique vision, energy and clarity that made him one of the most influential figures shaping the international style during the early 1900s. Born Charles Edouard Jeanneret, he rechristened himself Le Corbusier in Paris in 1920; around the time he started his journal L'Esprit Nouveau. An active member of the Parisian art scene and co-founder of the Congrès Internationaux d'Architecture Moderne (CIAM), he championed a minimalist modernism built around the idea of the home as a "machine for living."

Le Corbusier originally trained as a watch engraver in his hometown of La Chaux de Fonds at the vocational arts college. He began a successful career as an engraver -- in 1902 he was awarded a prize at the Turin Exhibition for a watch engraving -- but he soon turned his attention to architecture. In 1905 he worked on his first project, the Villa Fallet, and in 1907 he left for Italy and Paris to study different architectural styles. He worked at the architectural offices of Auguste Perret in Paris and apprenticed himself to Peter Behrens in Berlin for a year in 1910. In 1912 he returned to close the circle of his training years by working as an architecture teacher in La Chaux de Fonds until 1914.

The Domino House of 1914 represented an emergence of the free-flowing interior plan that would dominate his architectural style. The structural frame of this building was made of reinforced concrete supported by steel pillars. The lack of supporting walls turned the domestic space into an open, industrially elegant environment. In 1917 he moved to Paris where the contagious immediacy of the art scene inspired him to produce a number of paintings. Along with painter Amédée Ozenfant he wrote the manifesto, "Après le Cubisme" championing a new post-cubist purism. Le Corbusier designed Ozenfant's home in 1922.

Throughout the 1920s Le Corbusier solidified his philosophies about design and began publishing books and journals. In 1923 he came out with his book, Towards a New Architecture which was followed, in 1926, by Five Points of a New Architecture wherein he outlined architectural guidelines such as the necessity of a roof terrace, an unrestricted interior space, expansive windows, a plain exterior and columns for structural support. In 1928 he began creating furnishings for his buildings as part of a collaboration with Pierre Jeanneret and Charlotte Perriand. The three created a series of tubular steel furniture that they exhibited at the 1929 Salon d'Automne in Paris and from which emerged some of the most lasting icons of the international style. The furniture, entitled as a group, "Equipment for Living," was designed in rich leather or cowhide upholstery and featured the "B 302" swivel chair, the "B301" armchair and the "B 306" chaise longue, which Le Corbusier referred to as the "relaxing machine." Thonet originally manufactured these pieces and many have been reissued in recent years by Cassina as part of their line of classics. Le Corbusier, Jeanneret and Perriand also designed the "Grand Confort" furniture, which was a plump, upholstered answer to the lean art deco shapes of the other series.

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