Le Corbusier - The synthesis of the arts

Le Corbusier - The synthesis of the arts

Le Corbusier - The synthesis of the arts

The man from La Chaux-de-Fonds had a profound influence on 20th century architecture, urbanism and design. Tale of an exceptional career.

Architect, urban architect, man of letters, painter, designer … the least one can say is that Charles-Edouard Jeanneret-Gris, otherwise known as Le Corbusier, wore a number of different hats. This exceptional creator, whose architectural designs influenced the whole world, proudly proclaimed his multi-disciplinary approach throughout his career.


Born in La Chaux-de-Fonds on October 6th 1887 to a father who was an engraver and watch enamellist and a mother who was a musician, Le Corbusier entered Art School at the end of his formal schooling. He began a degree in ornamental design, chasing and engraving, and subsequently turned to architecture on the advice of his teacher, Charles L’Eplattenier.


He undertook a series of training voyages in Europe, each time coming back to the town of his birth. Most of his buildings, such as the Villa Schwob and the Villa Turque, were to bear the imprint of his travels. Le Corbusier achieved countless designs and photographs and wrote chronicles in La Chaux-de-Fonds’ official gazette. These were subsequently published under the title Journey to the East.


In 1917, Le Corbusier moved to Paris for good, where he met the painter Amédée Ozenfant, who founded the Purism movement. He also met great artists such as Braque, Juan Gris, Picasso and Lipchitz during this period.

Parallel to his activities in the realm of painting, writing, architecture and urban architecture, Le Corbusier took a keen interest in interior decoration. He specified his views in this realm in his book The Decorative Art of Today, published in 1925. For him, this meant an approach to design in which function supersedes decorative purposes, as well as industrially manufactured furniture.

After the Second World War, his books became more autobiographical through his travels to ever more remote destinations in South America, India and the United States. His interest focused increasingly on the idea of a synthesis of arts, a vision that indeed sums up his own creative career.

As an architect, he was one of the main representatives of the modern movement, who promoted functionalism, rationalism and the power of shape. And how can one not mention one of his key inventions: the “unité d’habitation” (housing or communal living unit) which was designed as a response to the post-war housing issues, by incorporating all the collective amenities required for daily life in the same building: nurseries, schools, swimming pools and meeting places.

Several decades after his death on August 27th 1965 during a swim at Cap Martin in the south of France, La Chaux-de-Fonds has not forgotten the man it named an honorary citizen in 1957. In tribute, the town intends to give the name of this famous character to a future sustainable district located in the heart of the town and that should accommodate around a thousand inhabitants.