Modern architect, Le Corbusier, was famous for being a pioneer of unique and ground-breaking designs. He changed the face of urban architecture, bringing it into the technological age.
Born Charles-Édouard Jeanneret-Gris, in Switzerland, in October 1887, he was encouraged to take up architecture by his teacher. He immediately showed an aptitude for design, building his first house when he was only 18.
After moving to Paris in 1908 to train under famous architect Auguste Perret, he then moved to Berlin for further training with Peter Behrens on machine design and industrial processes.
Architecture and machinery
Le Corbusier’s passion was classical Greek architecture, combined with a fascination for the modern machine. He wrote a book called Vers une Architecture to explain his pioneering ideas. It literally meant “towards an architecture”, but was commonly translated as “towards a new architecture” when the English version was published in 1927.
He referred to the house as a “machine for living”, a product of the industrial age that should be filled with functional furniture, called “equipment de l’habitation” – translated as “housing equipment”.
Le Corbusier designed a system of furniture, in liaison with his cousin Pierre Jeanneret and the French architect and designer, Charlotte Perriand. The unique furniture was made of tubular steel. It included the iconic chaise longue known as the LC4, and two seating collections, known as LC2 and LC3.
His tubular steel designs created a brand new rationalist aesthetic that epitomised international style. The chairs combined the purity of tubular steel with natural hide upholstery. The furniture was fashioned from chromed steel and nickel-plated steel, with the seats covered by top-grain, semi-dyed leather.
Tubular steel chairs
He specifically called chairs “architecture”. The tubular steel used to make the furniture was primarily used for bicycle frames in the early 1920s. He famously said that calling “chairs, baskets and objects decorative” was unnecessary, because they were, in fact, “useful tools”.
The first item produced by the collaboration between Le Corbusier and his colleagues was the chrome-plated tubular steel-framed LC4, made between 1927 and 1928. The covering of cowhide gave it a somehow exotic touch.
Manufactured between 1928 and 1929, the next item was the Fauteuil Grand Confort (the LC3). It was a club chair with a tubular steel frame, resembling the Art Deco comfortable chairs that were popular during the 1920s.
During the same period, Le Corbusier also came up with the Fauteuil à Dossier Basculant, known as the LC4. This was a highly unusual, low seat, which was suspended in a tubular steel frame, with the same cowhide upholstery.
These chairs were designed for two projects: a pavilion for the American writer and arts patron Henry Church, his wife Barbara and for the Maison la Roche, in Paris.
More furniture based on the tubular steel design was made by Le Corbusier in 1929, known as Salon d’Automne – “Equipment for the Home”. He intended his furniture to be inexpensive and mass-produced. However, his designs turned out to be exactly the opposite and were very costly to make.
Years later, they were finally mass-produced, but only after he became famous. Today, original furniture by Le Corbusier, who died in 1965, sells for vast amounts of money. His LC3 Grand Modele two-seater sofa retails at more than $9,000, while his LC2 Petit Modele three-seater sofa fetches around $11,300.
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