Le Corbusier

Le Corbusier became a Royal Gold Medalist in 1953. The Swiss architects key work is the Chapel of Notre Dame du Haut




United Nations Headquarters (c) RIBA Library Photographs Collection 1967

United Nations Headquarters © RIBA Library Photographs Collection 1967

Born Charles Edouard Jenneret, Le Corbusier took his nickname from his signature in architecture from the 1920s. When only 17, he designed his first building and financed by the fee he was paid, made a trip to Italy.

In 1907, Le Corbusier obtained work as a draughtsman in the office of Joseph Hoffman, a leading modernist architect of the time, which was followed by 15 months working as an apprentice to Auguste Perret (himself a Royal Gold Medallist).

© RIBA Library Photographs Collection 1937

© RIBA Library Photographs Collection 1937

Born: 1887 (-1965)
Nationality: Swiss

In 1916, Le Corbusier settled in Paris with the intention of practising architecture there. As well as designing, Le Corbusier published and edited L’Esprit Nouveau, an avant-garde magazine about the arts. It was during this time that C E Jenneret adopted the name Le Corbusier.

Le Corbusier founded a practice with his cousin, Pierre Jenneret in 1924 which became known as a post-graduate training school for architecture students of all nationalities. The practice of Le Corbusier and P. Jenneret existed until 1940 when the fall of France put an end to its activities.

The Royal Gold Medal was awarded 'for a man with not only a poetic vision of buildings and cities but also a vision of a poetic way of life; a new manner of living'.

Many of Le Corbusier’s finest projects have never been executed due to budgetary restraints. One such example was his winning competition design for the palace of the League of Nations. Yet at the same time, the design provoked such interest that Le Corbusier was invited to lecture about it in Europe and South America.

After the second World War, the French government commissioned Le Corbusier to replan the maritime region of Pallice-La-Rochelle and Saint-Dié in north east France. In 1947, Le Corbusier was one of a group of architects to design the United Nations Headquarters in New York – the Secretariat building is essentially Le Corbusier's design.



United Nations Headquarters (c) Eric Firley / RIBA Library Photographs Collection 2009Employs Le Corbusier's modular system of proportions © Architectural Press Archive / RIBA Library Photographs Collection 1956


Le Corbusier’s key work is the Chapel of Notre Dame du Haut, which demonstrates his anti-rational style. This can be compared to his heavy concrete work at Chandigarh, at the invitation of Maxwell Fry and Jane Drew.

Le Corbusier’s main contribution to contemporary architecture is the evolution of the ‘Free Plan’, which by utilizing modern materials such as concrete and steel makes it possible to build without load-bearing walls, and allows a freer planning of interior space. 


  • Royal Gold Medal, 1953

Buildings by Le Corbusier:

  • The United Nations Headquarters, New York, 1947
  • Chapel of Notre Dame du Haut, Ronchamp, 1954