Period III newsletter

La Chaux-de-Fonds, Maison blanche, 1912. Photo: TES.

Le Corbusier and Switzerland

The career of one of Switzerland’s most famous architects started with training at the School of Art in La Chaux-de-Fonds. Charles-Edouard Jeanneret, who adopted the pseudonym Le Corbusier in 1920, was born on 6 October 1887 in la-Chaux-de-Fonds. After a career as an architect, urban planner, painter, furniture designer, sculptor, and theoretican (he also wrote many articles and books on art in general and painting and architecture in particular), he died on 27 August 1965 as a French citizen (in 1930 he took French nationality).

Already in 1906/1907 Le Corbusier built his first villa as a joint project of students of the School of Art (the villa Fallet), a year before he started his tour to the Orient, Austria, Italy, France, Hungary, and Germany (1906-1912), during the heydays of the Vienna Session (Wiener Secession), Vienna Workshop (Wiener Werkstätte), Art Nouveau. He got acquainted with the works by Walter Gropius (1883-1969), Mies van de Rohe (1886-1969 and Peter Behrens (1868-1940), who should change design and architecture forever in the decades to come (Bauhaus). He became familiar with the modern movement in art and architecture in Paris. In the year 1908, when he had returned from his tour for a while, he built two other villas in La Chaud-de-Fonds (villa Stotzer, and villa Jaquemet).

In February 1912, he opened his first office in La Chaux-de-Fonds, and at this occasion, he built the Maison blanche and the villa Favre-Jacot in Le Locle. In 1917, he designed the Villa Turque, actually the real start of his conception of modern architecture. After this venture, Le Corbusier settled in Paris, painting in the morning, and working as an architect in the afternoon, publishing many articles on art as well. Le Corbusier designed many public and private buildings in France and the Francophone world but also experienced disappointments.

His designs (1927-1929: the time of optimism and the League of Nations) of a World City and an international World Museum, the Mundaneum, never materialized. He built two other famous villas in Switzerland (villa Le Lac in Corseaux (1923/1924) and the Clarté apartment in Geneva (1932). Le Corbusier introduced innovative works and revolutionary doctrines in the fields of construction methods and architectural concepts and is still regarded as one of the greatest architects and designers of the 20th century. The Pavillon Le Corbusier in Zurich (www.pavillon-le-corbusier.ch) and the Maison Blanche in La Chaux-de-Fonds (www.maisonblanche.ch) tell the story of his life and work. (Source: C. Courtiau, Le Corbusier. Education and Training, Projects and Constructions in Switzerland, Bern 2012).