Charles-Edouard Jeanneret, known as Le Corbusier (1887-1965) was a native of the city of La Chaux-de-Fonds (Switzerland). He was at once an architect, painter, town planner, writer and humanist.
As a great theoretician, he was a prominent figure of the modern art movement which he visually defined through the “five points of architecture”: the theory of the plan, the free facade, the principal of pillars, banner windows and roof terraces. He called for the rationalization of construction and the extensive use of new materials, particularly concrete for its purity and rendering. In addition, the idea of “brutalism” describes the aesthetics of raw concrete. The architect, in search of the a greater coherence of his works, develops the “Modulor”, a system of universal proportions based on the human scale.
Very involved in the spread of new ideas, Le Corbusier created, in 1928, the International Congress of Modern Architecture (CIAM). One particularly well-known idea led to the Athens Charter in 1933, which developed, within the theme of the “functional city”, the zoning and separation of spaces according to the four main functions of the city: life, work, leisure and transport.
Among Le Corbusier’s main achievements we can mention the Villa Savoye (1928-1931, Poissy) and the lodging unity of Marseille (1946-1952). As to the urban projects, he worked in Chandigarh (India) between 1952 and 1959.
Le Corbusier’s most famous religious work is the chapel of Notre-Dame du Haut.
Unveiled on 25th June, 1955 on a hill overlooking the town of Ronchamp as the construction was carried out by André Maisonnier, an architect and a loyal colleague of Le Corbusier.
“By building this chapel, I wanted to create a place of silence, prayer, peace, inner joy,” said Le Corbusier on the inauguration day of the building. Le Corbusier was one of the first architects to work simultaneously in several countries. He was acknowledged in his lifetime.
Iron craftsman, architect and engineer, Jean Prouvé (1901 - 1984) had a passion for labour issues and collective housing. He participated in the development of metal, especially of aluminium, which he used to produce an effect of lightness, particularly for the facades of buildings.
He worked in parallel on the modularity of spaces and the use of prefabricated materials in house construction. He put the rationality of the modern art movement into the practice of the decorative arts by making simple, streamlined and standardized furniture, which was mass produced. The work of Jean Prouvé is marked by the influence of his contemporary and companion, Le Corbusier.
In terms of architecture, Jean Prouvé focused on social issues such as the ‘Community Centre’ (1935 to 1939, Clichy, France). Among his other famous buildings are the tropical house (1949, Niamey, Niger), the Nobel tower, built in the district of La Defense in Paris between 1967 and 1969, and the Palais Omnisports of Paris-Bercy (Omnisport Palace, 1981 - 1984). He also created the famous Furniture Standard Chair (1934), the Compass Table (1953) and the Anthony Chair (1954).
Among the few rare-religious works of Jean Prouvé, is the bell tower of the chapel Notre-Dame Du Haut in Ronchamp built in 1975. The request was made directly to Jean Prouvé by the chaplain after Le Corbusier’s death. “I asked Jean Prouvé to create a bell in the chapel at Ronchamp. He seemed to be the best person to achieve this work, left unfinished by the death of Le Corbusier. It was very difficult for him because he feared the confrontation between the overwhelming presence of Le Corbusier’s work and his personal contribution. However, he came to my assistance, immersed himself with the place, produced some sketches ... and went on to say: “I think this is possible ... even easy and will not cost too much” ” (Abbot R. Bolle Reddat, 1986).
The three bells are maintained by a simple metal structure. Two old bells had survived the bombing of the hill in 1944 and the third, the smaller one, was smelt for the occasion. Within its simplicity and purity, Jean Prouvé’s creation echoed that of the chapel.
In 1981, Jean Prouvé received the Erasmus Prize, rewarding those who had contributed to the development of the European culture. For a long time, however, the work of Jean Prouvé had remained misunderstood.
Renzo Piano was born in Genoa in 1937. Born of a family of builders, he has always attached great importance to materials and construction methods. From his point of view, the architect’s work requires a long maturation process, from conception to completion of a construction work. Renzo Piano pays attention to the environment, within which his achievements are located; and he tries, through architecture, to give material form to intangible elements such as lightness, transparency and light.
Among Renzo Piano’s main achievements, we can mention the National Art and Cultural Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris (1971-1977), the Cultural Centre Jean-Marie Tjibaou in Noumea or the Beyeler Foundation in Basel - Both being created in the 1990s. Among his urban projects, he worked at the same time in Japan on the construction of the Kansai International Airport and, in Germany, for the reconstruction of the Potsdamer Platz in Berlin. Thanks to his redevelopment (1985-1992) of the old port of Genoa, Renzo Piano’s home town, had the honour of receiving the title of ‘European Capital of Culture’ in 2004. Other examples of his work are the iconic New York Times building in the United States and “The Shard” in London, the tallest building in Europe, inaugurated in 2012.
In 2006-2011 Renzo Piano worked on the construction of the Monastery for the Sisters of St. Clare and the tourist entrance pavilion (Gatehouse) at the foot of the Chapel Notre-Dame du Haut in Ronchamp. The project was carried out in accordance with the principles distinguishing all Renzo Piano‘s work: “... the richness of an area does not come from the fact that it is delimited by walls and ceilings, but from the use made of non-material elements such as light, colour, vegetation ...” (R.PIANO, Genova, 1968).
Michel Corajoud was born in 1937 in Annecy and died in 2014 in Paris. Before becoming a landscape designer, he studied decorative arts and worked for Bernard Rousseau, a former colleague of Le Corbusier. In the 1970s, Michel Corajoud trained a team of urban landscape designers at the Planning and Architecture Workshop. He managed urban studies in Africa and took part in many equipment competitions.
Since 1975, he has been in association with Claire Corajoud, his wife, who is also a landscape designer. Together they have been involved with the projects of Sausset Park (1981-2005, Seine-Saint-Denis), Gerland park in Lyon (1999-2006, Lyon, France) and the landscape park “Les Jardins d’Eole” (2004-2006, Paris). The list of Michel Corajoud’s major projects include arrangement works with Renzo Piano such as the site of the former Falck steelworks in Sesto San Giovanni (2006) or the International City, upstream and downstream areas in Lyon (2001, Lyon, France).
His work is characterised by the staging of a variety of links, which combine elements in the surrounding landscape as well as highlighting the value of plants.
In 2003, Michel Corajoud received “the Grand prix de l'urbanisme”, which demonstrates the importance of the landscape in the city. Among other duties, he is a professor at the National Graduate School of Landscape at Versailles. Michel Corajoud is now recognised as one of the founders of landscape renewal ideas.
Between 2008 and 2011, Michel Corajoud’s workshop worked at Ronchamp. In association with the Renzo Piano studio, Corajoud designed the landscape, remodelling of the hill areas and planned the re-planting around the buildings.