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Modern master gets just reward

Le Corbusier and his "Collection particulière" in his Paris workshop, circa 1931

A German museum is hosting the first major retrospective in 20 years of the renowned Swiss architect and city planner Le Corbusier.

The exhibition, which is being held just over the border from Switzerland, presents a "contemporary view" of his creative process, while providing an introduction to future generations.

"Le Corbusier – The Art of Architecture" is being held in the Vitra Design Museum in Weil am Rhein, near Basel. According to the curators, Le Corbusier remains a "highly significant and relevant for today's architectural discourse" with his work being "an important point of reference for contemporary architecture and urbanism".

Le Corbusier, whose real name was Charles-Édouard Jeanneret-Gris, was born in La Chaux-de-Fonds in canton Neuchâtel. But he spent much of his career in Paris where he became known for his bold contributions to architecture and city planning, becoming a French citizen in 1930.

His talents were manifold – he also designed furniture, created sculptures, painted and was the author of a large number of publications.

Le Corbusier, who died in 1965, is now widely acknowledged to be one of the most important architects of 20th century. He helped formulate the ideas of Purism, the aesthetic based on pure, simple geometric forms of everyday objects.

He was also a major proponent of the International Style, which used clean, Modernist lines.

Full picture

The exhibition, which is supported by the Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia, aims to give a full picture of Le Corbusier's 60-year-long career.

There are 250 items on display, including 20 original paintings, eight sculptures, vintage furniture pieces and 80 drawings and plans by Le Corbusier. Some of the exhibits are rare, with more than 70 coming from the architect's personal collection.

Among the highlights of the exhibition are a huge mural from Le Corbusier's Paris office at Rue de Sèvres, a large-scale model of the Phillips Pavilion from 1958, which reflects the architect's anticipation of today's computer-generated architecture, and original film footage shot by the Swiss in Arcachon – a resort on France's Atlantic coast - and Rio de Janeiro.

Also on show is a reconstruction of the model for Le Corbusier's utopian master plan for Paris, the "Plan Voisin" from 1925, which established his reputation as one of the most advanced thinkers of his time, but also earned him copious amounts of criticism.

Creative process

The display uses a rich variety of media to show the determining factors in Le Corbusier's creative process, but does not shy away from showing some aspects in a critical light.

The exhibition is divided into three sections: "Contexts" considers six cities, "Privacy and Publicity", his furniture and models, and "Built Art", his most famous buildings such as the Chapel of Ronchamp in France (1950-55) and the buildings for Chandigarh in India (1952-64).

Also highlighted are the major themes of his work, his interest in the Mediterranean and the East, his shift towards organic forms in the 1930s, and his exploration of new technologies and media.

This, the museum hopes, will result in "holistic understanding of Le Corbusier's oeuvre".

"The aim of the exhibition is to present a decidedly contemporary view of Le Corbusier's work... while also providing a comprehensive introduction to the subject for younger generations, who already regard his oeuvre primarily within the context of 20th century cultural history," it said.

swissinfo

Key facts

"Le Corbusier – The Art of Architecture" is running at the Vitra Design Museum in Weil am Rhein.
It runs until February 10, 2008.

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Le Corbusier

Charles-Édouard Jeanneret-Gris was born in 1887 in La Chaux-de-Fonds.

In 1917 he moved to Paris. He took the name Le Corbusier, a pseudonym adapted from his maternal grandfather's surname.

He died in 1965 in the south of France, drowning while swimming off the beach at Roquebrune-Cap-Martin.

His only buildings in Switzerland are two houses in La Chaux-de-Fonds, the Clarté building in Geneva, a villa in Corseaux, near Vevey and his last design, the Centre Le Corbusier in Zurich.

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