Centre Le Corbusier, Zurich

 

Le Courbusier was a Swiss-French architect, artist, designer and writer who was a pioneer of modern architecture. Born Charles-Édouard Jeanneret-Gris in 1887, he adopted the pen-name Le Courbusier in 1920. He boasted a career that lasted five decades, and saw his plans built in Europe, India and the Americas.

One of Le Courbusier’s passions, which is relevant today more than ever, was urban planning: he felt very strongly about living conditions in crowded cities, and dedicated his efforts to improving these living conditions by providing better housing solutions. Profoundly influenced very early on in his career by a visit to monks at the Charterhouse of the Valley of Ema, his beliefs were that all citizens should be able to live peacefully, beautifully and comfortably.

Having lived and worked for many years in Paris, and seen the squalor of the growing Parisian slums as well as officials’ inability to deal with it, Le Courbusier investigated ways to house large numbers of people efficiently. His project, Immeubles Villas (1922), was composed of individual apartment blocks stacked one on top of the other. Despite its prison-like nature, he believed this new, modern architectural solution was organizationally sound and would raise the lower classes’ quality of life.

Le Courbusier’s ambitions knew no bounds, and he soon designed a living solution for an entire city: his Ville Contemporaine (1922). It was fanciful, futuristic and compelling, but aspects such as the glorification of the motor car and having jet planes land between skyscrapers do not fit well in today’s sociological climate. Needless to say, these plans were not put into practice at the time, either. Indeed, his Plan Voisin (1925), which involved bulldozing most of Paris north of the Seine in favour of sixty-story towers and green space, was scorned by French politicians and industrialists. But even if his designs were not implemented, they did provoke important discussion on dealing with cramped and unsanitary living conditions.

Le Courbusier’s architecture revolved around five points: (1) raising the structure from the ground on supporting pillars, thus giving (2) a free facade and (3) an open floor plan due to no need for internal supporting walls, (4) boasting unencumbered views of the surroundings and (5) replacing the roof with a terrace. Villa Savoye on the outskirts of Paris best demonstrates these five points.

The Center Le Courbusier, an art museum dedicated to his work, is shown in all its glory in the photographs below. The building, opened in 1967, was his final masterpiece, and is located on the shore of Lake Zurich. It is open to the public for around half the year. It is constructed with prefabricated steel frames, concrete, glass, and multi-coloured enamel panels. There is a free-floating roof to protect the building from the elements. With the external structure being designed by the artist whose works are exhibited within, it is possible that the Center Le Corbusier is a one-of-a-kind centre, one that can be considered a Gesamtkunstwerk, or a total work of art.

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Corbusier, Switzerland Museum Corbusier Zurich Centre Le Corbusier Corbusier Museum, Zurich
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Centre Le Corbusier Museum Corbusier Zurich Centre Le Corbusier, Zurich Corbusier Museum
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Centre Le Corbusier Corbusier, architecture Corbusier, Switzerland Corbusier, Switzerland