Le Corbusier , over his five-decade career, put forth a vision of design as an entity defined by striking elemental forms and driven by function. The Swiss-French architect dismissed styles of the past and unnecessary ornamentation. He focused his furniture designs on inexpensive materials that could be mass produced and developed ambitious architecture and planning projects that promoted new ways of living. Le Corbusier’s point of view helped establish the influential International Style and positioned him as one of the central figures in modern design.
Born in 1887 in Switzerland as Charles-Édouard Jeanneret-Gris, he first learned about art, architecture, and craftsmanship when he attended the École des Arts Décoratifs at La Chaux-de-Fonds. Known for his writings on design, he developed his pseudonym, Le Corbusier, when he began penning articles for L’Esprit Nouveau in Paris in 1920.
He went on to complete notable structures such as the United Nations headquarters in New York City, which Le Corbusier designed alongside Oscar Niemeyer; the Villa Savoye in Poissy, France; and Unite d’Habitation in Marseille, France. The latter project was completed in 1952 in collaboration with Portuguese artist Nadir Afonso as part of an effort to respond to the housing shortages in post-WWII Europe.
The first iteration of the Unité d’Habitation referred to as Cité Radieuse, was defined by the pervasive use of “béton brut”—raw concrete. The project was the first of a new housing series for Le Corbusier that focused on communal living, creating a space where the inhabitants could shop, play, live, and come together in a “vertical garden city.” The roof of the development functioned as a garden terrace that had a running track, club, kindergarten, gym, and pool. Additionally, there were shops, medical facilities, and a small hotel distributed throughout the building.
Considered the origin of the brutalist movement, the Unité d’Habitation was decorated with raw concrete lamps that illuminated common areas shared by tenants of the complex. Those lights, called Borne Béton, were also used in Le Corbusier’s Bhakra Dam and Sukhna Dam projects in Chandigarh, India. Reissued by NEMO and available here at Context Gallery The lamp is a handcrafted product; slight differences make each one unique. Available in two sizes—a large floor version and a small table version —the Borne Béton is suited for indoor or outdoor use. Its simple design speaks to the lyricism of form and refined functionality that is evident both in the Unité d’Habitation project and Le Corbusier’s oeuvre at large.