Le Corbusier was born Charles Edouard Jeannerct on October 6, 1887, in LaChaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland. Le Corbusier was the second son of Edouard Jeanneret, a dial painter in the town's renowned watch industry, and Madame Jeannerct-Perrct, a musician and piano teacher.
The family proudly traced its ancestry to the Cathars, who fled to the Jura Mountains during the Albigensian Wars of the twelfth century, and the French Huguenots, who migrated to Switzerland following the Edict of Nantes (1598). La Chaux-de-Fonds' tradition of offering refuge includes both Rousseau and Bakunin. His family's Calvinism, love of the arts, and enthusiasm for the Jura Mountains, were all formative influences on the young Le Corbusier; Charles L'Eplattenier, a teacher at the local art school, dominated his education.
L'Eplattenier, whom Le Corbusier called "My Master," combined into a National Romanticism many strains of late-nineteenth-century thought, from Ruskin to Hermann Muthesius. He involved his students in his search for a new kind of ornament expressive of the Jura landscape and able to sustain the local craft industry. Apprenticed at thirteen to a watch engraver, Le Corbusier abandoned matchmaking in part because of his delicate eyesight, and continued his studies in art and decoration, with the intention of becoming a painter. L'Eplattenier insisted that the young man also study architecture and arranged for his first commissions.
After completing his first house, Villa Pallet, in 1907, Le Corbusier set out on a series of travels that lasted until 1912, when Le Corbusier returned to La Chaux-de-Fonds to teach beside L'Eplattenier and to begin his own practice. These travels took him first to Italy, then to Vienna, Munich, and Paris. They included a period of apprenticeship to architects with philosophies at odds with L'Eplattenier's teachings,most significantly the structural rationalism of Auguste Perret, a father of reinforced concrete construction, and the Werkbund perspective of Peter Behrens. They concluded with a "Journey to the East" by way of the Balkans and Eastern Europe, culminating in a visit to the Acropolis.
Back in Switzerland, Le Corbusier designed a series of villas and embarked on a more theoretical study for a structural frame of reinforced concrete Le Corbusier called the Maison Dom-ino (a pun on the Latin word for house, domus, and on the playing pieces from the game). Le Corbusier envisaged it as an affordable, prefabricated system for the construction of new housing in the wake of World War I's destruction. Developed with the help of Max Dubois and Perret, the system differed from the then standard Hennibique frame in its idealization of floors as flat slabs without exposed beams. Its columns were perfectly straight posts without capitals, set in from the edge of the slab. This system freed both exterior and interior walls from all structural constraints.
At the end of the war Le Corbusier moved to Paris. There Le Corbusier worked on concrete structures under government contracts and ran a small brick manufacture, but Le Corbusier dedicated most of his efforts to the more influential, and lucrative, discipline of painting. First in a book entitled Apres le cubisme, and subsequently in an art show at Galerie Thomas, Le Corbusier and Am�ede� Ozenfant began a movement called Purism, which called for the restoration of the integrity of the object in art. As their style developed, it drew closer to Synthetic Cubism's structure of overlapping planes, but retained a distinct attitude toward the mass-produced "tools" of industrial culture, from laboratory flasks to cafe chairs, which they called objets-types.
The emerging spirit of industrialized culture in all its aspects became the theme of the journal I'Esprit Nouveau, founded in 1919 by Le Corbusier, Ozenfant, and the poet Paul Dermee, and published until 1925. Le Corbusier collected essays from the journal in the book Vers une architecture. In the essays Le Corbusier proposed an architecture that would satisfy both the demands of industry and the timeless concerns of architectural form as defined in antiquity. His proposals included his first city plan, the Contemporary City. Le Corbusier also proposed two housing types, which were the basis for much of his architecture throughout his life: the vaulted Maison Monol and the Maison Citrohan, a "shoebox" volume with a double-height salon (the salon was modeled on, among other sources, the bistro Legendre, rue Godot-de-Mauroy, where the architect lunched daily).
In order to distinguish their work as painters from their work as critics and theorists, Ozenfant and Jeanneret took pseudonyms. Ozenfant adopted his mother's family name, Saugnier. Jean-neret took the name of a cousin, Lecor-bezier. Separating the Le out, the name sounded suitably like an objet-type; it also suggested the architect's profile, which resembled a crow's (corbeau). Le Corbusier 's self-invention continued with the encouragement of the elder, more self-assured Ozenfant. Adopting a costume of bow-tie, starched collar, and bowler hat, and a rhetorical literary style combining discipline, enthusiasm, ironic wit, and moral outrage, Le Corbusier became what he considered to be the perfect standard for the times.
Ozenfant and Le Corbusier parted in 1924, with much acrimony over who deserved credit for their joint efforts. In 1922, Le Corbusier formed an architectural partnership with his cousin Pierre Jeanneret; Jeanneret was to play the quieter role, developing plans and details and dealing with clients. They set up an office in the corridor of a former Jesuit monastery at 35, rue de Sevres. It remained Le Corbusier 's office for the rest of his life.
During the 1920s Le Corbusier realized his first mature architecture in a series of villas for artists, their patrons, and a few industrialists. The absence of a state program for public housing in France contributed to Le Corbusier 's inability to realize his ideas on a larger scale and for a more varied clientele. The one exception was a complex of workers* housing in Pessac, built for an industrialist. For the 1927 Deutsches Werkbund exhibition in Stuttgart, Le Corbusier built the Citrohan prototype in a rather pure form. In a booklet for the exhibition Le Corbusier codified his principles as (he Five Points of Modem Architecture, derived from the potentials of the concrete frame. They are the roof garden on top of the house, the consequence of a flat roof; the pilotis, or columns, that raise the house above the ground; the free plan, unencumbered by structural partitions ; the similarly free facade; and the strip (continuous, horizontal) windows, which provide maximum illumination to the house. Eventually, Le Corbusier categorized the spatial organizations derived from these points as the Four ompositions, illustrating each one with a house built during the 1920s.
By the end of the decade, Le Corbusier and Jeanneret had achieved a status and skill that seemed about to earn them their first public commission: the League of Nations (1927). Their eventual elimination (ostensibly for the illegal use of China ink) after winning numerous rounds of the competition was seen as the triumph in the architectural world of academicism over the modem. It instigated the formation of CIAM (Congres Intemationaux d'Architecture Modeme), whose charter members included S. Giedion, W. Gropius, and Le Corbusier, and whose principal areas of concern were architecture's relation to economic and political spheres. Their 1933 meeting on a boat headed to the Acropolis produced the Athens Charter, a document on urbanism published by Le Corbusier in 1943; it served as bible for much city planning in the following two decades. Eventually, Le Corbusier and Jeanneret did obtain two large public commissions: the Soviet Centrosoyus (begun in 1929) and the Cite de Refuge for the Salvation Army (1930).