Charles Edouard Jeanneret, known as Le Corbusier, b. La Chaux-de-fonds, Switzerland, Oct. 6, 1887, d. 1965, was a Swiss-French architect who played a decisive role in the development of modern architecture. He first studied (1908-10) in Paris with August Perret, and then worked (1910) for several months in the Berlin studio of industrial designer Peter Behrens, where he met the future Bauhaus leaders Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Walter Gropius. Shortly after World War I, Jeanneret turned to painting and founded, with Amedee Ozenfant, the purist offshoot of cubism. With the publication (1923) of his influential collection of polemical essays, Vers une architecture (Towards a New Architecture, Eng. repr. 1970), he adopted the name Le Corbusier and devoted his full energy and talent to creating a radically modern form of architectural expression.
In the 1920s and '30s, Le Corbusier's most significant work was in urban planning. In such published plans as La Ville Contemporaine (1922), the Plan Voisin de Paris (1925), and the several Villes Radieuses (1930-36), he advanced ideas dramatically different from the comfortable, low-rise communities proposed by earlier garden city planners. During this 20-year span he also built many villas and several small apartment complexes and office buildings. In these hard-edged, smooth-surfaced, geometric volumes, he created a language of what he called "pure prisms"--rectangular blocks of concrete, steel, and glass, usually raised above the ground on stilts, or pilotis, and often endowed with roof gardens intended to compensate for the loss of usable floor area at ground level.
After World War II, Le Corbusier moved away from purism and toward the so-called new brutalism, which utilized rough-hewn forms of concrete, stone, stucco, and glass. Newly recognized in official art circles as an important 20th-century innovator, he represented (1946) France on the planning team for the United Nations Headquarters building in New York City--a particularly satisfying honor for an architect whose prize-winning design (1927) for the League of Nations headquarters had been rejected. Simultaneously, he was commissioned by the French government to plan and build his prototypical Vertical City in Marseille. The result was the Unite d'Habitation (1946-52)--a huge block of 340 "superimposed villas" raised above the ground on massive pilotis, laced with two elevated thoroughfares of shops and other services and topped by a roof-garden gymnasium that contained, among other things, a sculptured playground of concrete forms and a peripheral track for joggers.
His worldwide reputation led to a commission from the Indian government to plan the city of Chandigarh, the new capital of the Punjab, and to design and build the Government Center (1950-70) and several of the city's other structures. These poetic, handcrafted buildings represented a second, more humanistic phase in Le Corbusier's work that also was reflected in his lyrical Pilgrim Church of Notre Dame du Haut at Ronchamp (1951-55) in the Vosges Mountains of France; in his rugged monastery of La Tourette, France (1954-59); and in the structures he designed (from 1958) at Ahmedabad, in India. Le Corbusier accidentally drowned in the Mediterranean on Aug. 27, 1965.
Frank Lloyd Wright, b. Richland Center, Wis., June 8, 1867, d. Apr. 9, 1959, was one of the most innovative and influential figures in modern architecture. In his radically original designs as well as in his prolific writings he championed the virtues of what he termed organic architecture, a building style based on natural forms.
After briefly studying civil engineering at the University of Wisconsin, Wright moved to Chicago, where he went to work (1887) as a draftsman in the office of Adler and Sullivan. While working under Louis Sullivan--whom Wright called "Lieber Meister"--he began designing and building on his own a few private houses for some of Adler and Sullivan's clients. These "bootlegged houses," as Wright called them, soon revealed an independent talent quite distinct from that of Sullivan. Wright's houses had low, sweeping rooflines hanging over uninterrupted walls of windows; his plans were centered on massive brick or stone fireplaces at the heart of the house; his rooms became increasingly open to one another; and the overall configuration of his plans became more and more asymmetrical, reaching out toward some real or imagined prairie horizon.
In contrast to the expansive openness of those houses which inspired the prairie school, Wright's urban buildings (unlike Sullivan's, for instance) tended to be walled in, somewhat inhospitable to the city, and lit primarily through skylights. Whereas two of the finest buildings of Wright's early period--the Larkin Company Administration Building (1904; demolished 1950) in Buffalo, N.Y., and the Unity Church (1906) in Oak Park, Ill.--seemed to proclaim Wright's distaste...