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Le Corbusier

Ideas & Forms (New Edition)

Le Corbusier: Ideas and Forms is the definitive single volume study of the Modernist master Swiss-French architect Le Corbusier by the world expert and award-winning architectural historian William J R Curtis

William J R Curtis


Price: USD$150.00

It is impossible to understand the architecture of the twentieth century and of our own time without first coming to terms with Le Corbusier (1887–1965). His buildings can be found from Paris to La Plata to the Punjab and his influence has extended over several generations worldwide. Individual masterpieces such as the Villa Savoye at Poissy, the Chapel of Notre Dame-du-Haut at Ronchamp and the Parliament Building in Chandigarh, bear comparison with the works of any age. As well as an architect, Le Corbusier was also a painter, sculptor, urbanist and author; even a philosopher who ruminated upon the human condition in the modern era. He reordered the ground rules of the architectural discipline and invested his insights with a universal tone.

This probing study of Le Corbusier’s work explores the interactions of ideas and forms in his individual buildings and in his oeuvre as a whole. By penetrating the design processes of his major buildings it reveals the architect’s struggle to reconcile the ideal and the practical and to give clients’ aspirations and society’s institutions a suitable symbolic form. It analyses Le Corbusier’s phenomenal powers of imaginative synthesis, the recurrent elements of his architectural language, and the multiple levels of meaning in his projects. In turn it shows how this most ‘modern’ of architects drew inspiration from both nature and the past.

Published in the year of the fiftieth anniversary of Le Corbusier’s death, the book has been rigourously rethought, reworked and redesigned to include new scholarship, to integrate the author’s research and to extend his insights. The text, notes and bibliography have been expanded, the number of illustrations more than doubled, and an entire section of four chapters, ‘Principles and Transformations’, has been added at the end. These focus on the architect’s spatial imagination, the genesis of his forms, the generic features of his style and his impact upon world architecture. This new and updated edition of Le Corbusier: Ideas and Forms presents a full and illuminating account of the architect’s buildings and unrealized urban projects while also revealing broader features of his creative universe.

Continuing the standard of the highly praised original edition, this book by eminent and award-winning architectural historian William J R Curtis documents individual projects in detail while also linking them to the architect’s philosophy, utopian vision and activities as a painter, sculptor and author. It explores Le Corbusier’s processes of invention in diverse media while placing his work in the context of the cultural and political predicaments of his time. It demonstrates how the artist transformed his experience of the world into a new architectural vocabulary based upon a limited set of types and elements, and how he gave shape to images and ideas in forms of compelling force.


Format: Hardback
Size: 305 x 238 mm, (12 x 9 3/8 in)
Pages: 512 pp
Illustrations: 350 colour illustrations, 150 black and white illustrations
ISBN: 9780714868943

  Praise for the First Edition

"The most lucid and complete chronicle yet available of Le Corbusier’s achievement and (in the words of his title) the ‘ideas and forms’ which successively and cumulatively account for its significance. It is, then, as incise narrative … illuminated by penetrating critical commentary that this book excels"
-Times Literary Supplement

"This book is an admirable as well as well-timed introduction to Le Corbusier. In it much recent scholarship has been pulled together and presented in a lively account of Le Corbusier’s life and work... it is also a record of personal observation and synthesis by an informed and shrewdly sensitive author which will remain valid and fresh in the long term."
-Architectural Review

"William J R Curtis is the best architectural historian writing in the English language, and that alone makes this book something of an event. Unsurprisingly, Curtis has turned out what is probably the most comprehensive, well balanced and interesting narrative yet produced about one of the giants of 20th century architecture."
-Chicago Tribune

"As a study of the life and work of possibly the most erudite, probably the most gifted, and certainly the most disturbing architect of the present century, it is unlikely to be superseded."
-The Architect, Royal Institute of British Architects' Journal

"The most lucid and complete chronicle yet available of Le Corbusier’s achievement. This book excels.'
-Architecture, AIA American Institute of Architect's Journal

Praise for the Second Edition

Selected as one of 'the best architectural books of the year' by Rowan Moore, architectural critic of the Guardian.
-Rowan Moore, The Guardian, December 7th, 2015

"...a much expanded version of an earlier monograph..definitive, chronological, sumptuously illustrated... Curtis is ...balanced and inclusive, offering excellent discussions of all the Indian work, of many unexecuted projects, and of the vast influence Corbusier has exercised... I think there is no better introduction to the man and his work."
-Architects Journal

"Just as Le Corbusier is a 'classic' of modern architecture, Curtis's monograph is a 'classic' of the Corbusian bibliography. And with this new edition - substantially enlarged, both in text and illustrations - the book will become indeed the main reference for understanding Le Corbusier's contribution to universal architecture"
-Arquitectura Viva

"his classic Le Corbusier Ideas and Forms published in 1986 and, for the quarter century since, the most thoughtful and complete analysis of the architect... There is still no better single source than William Curtis ...And that's why, architects, yes: you'll need to buy this new version"
-Architectural Record

"In the new, revised and updated edition of the classic 'Le Corbusier: Ideas and Forms', Curtis goes beyond just documenting to delve deeper and deeper into the creative underpinnings of Le Corbusier's masterpieces... Many new photographs have been added, including some of Chandigarh taken by Curtis, who himself is an excellent photographer. ...What Le Corbusier did for the 20th century in shaping the world's built form, William J.R. Curtis does for Le Corbusier, become his master interpreter"
-Architecture plus Design, India

"It is a carefully considered book, based on extensive thought and study of the vast documentation, addressed to the advanced student of modernism... The structure of the book is very clear and the design and layout are thoughtful and sympathetic. Highly recommended."
-Library Journal

"Le Corbusier, the Swiss architect who died this month, fifty years ago. His work, both the great and the not so great, is the subject of a fantastic new edition from Phaidon of Le Corbusier: Ideas and Forms, by the architectural historian, William JR Curtis."
-Daily Beast

"...an exceptional history and a spectacular collection of images."
-Metropolis Magazine

"Impressive ...Any committed bibliophile should splash out on this new, seductively hefty tome. ...A succinct over-view of one mans' determination to change the world ...We are fortunate to have Curtis' considered critique to vouchsafe Corb's rightful place in the architectural pantheon."
-RIAS Quarterly

Contents and sections:

Preface to the First Edition

Preface to the Second Edition

Introduction: Notes on Invention

Part I: The Formative Years of Charles Edouard Jeanneret 1887-1922
  • The Home Base
  • In Search of Personal Principles
  • A Classicism for the Jura
  • Paris, Purism and L'Esprit Nouveau
Part II: Architectural Ideals and Social Realities 1922-1944
  • Defning Types for the New Industrial City
  • Houses, Studios and Villas
  • Machine-Age Palaces and Public Institutions
  • The Structure of Intentions: Villa Savoye
  • Collective Demonstrations: Cité de Refuge and Pavillon Suisse
  • Mechanization, Nature and 'Regionalism'
  • Politics, Urbanism and Travels
  Part III: The Ancient Sense: Late Works 1945-1965
  • The Modulor, Marseilles and the Mediterranean Myth
  • Sacral Forms, Ancient Associations
  • Le Corbusier in India: The Symbolism of Chandigarh
  • The Merchants of Ahmedabad
  • Retrospection and Invention: Final Projects
Part IV: Principles and Transformations
  • The Realm of Architectural Ideas
  • The Genesis of Forms
  • The Unique and the Typical
  • On Transforming Le Corbusier
  • Conclusion: Modernism, Nature, Tradition
Bibliography and notes



William J R Curtis is an award-winning historian, critic, writer, curator, painter and photographer. Educated at the Courtauld Institute and Harvard University, he has taught the history of architecture and theories of design at many universities around the world including Harvard, the Architectural Association and the University of Cambridge where he was Slade Professor of Fine Art (2003–04). His best known books include Modern Architecture Since 1900 (third edition, Phaidon, 1996) and Le Corbusier: Ideas and Forms (first edition, Phaidon, 1986), both of which have been widely translated and both of which have been referred to as ‘classics’. His Denys Lasdun: Architecture, City, Landscape (Phaidon, 1994) was also published to critical acclaim. Curtis has written over a dozen monographs on diverse aspects of modern and contemporary architecture as well as numerous studies on Le Corbusier. He has published historical, critical and theoretical texts on subjects as varied as Indian architecture, both ancient and modern, Australian aboriginal spear throwers, the history of everyday objects and the role of abstraction in photographs. He also contributes regularly to international critical journals such as the Architectural Review and El Croquis. Curtis exhibits and publishes his own paintings and drawings (Mental Landscapes, Museum of Finnish Architecture, 2000) and photographs (Structures of Light, Alvar Aalto Academy, 2007). Among his numerous awards: the Alice Davis Hitchcock Medallion of the Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain (1984), a National Honors Society Gold Medal in Architecture and Allied Arts, USA (1999), a Medal of the Museum of Finnish Architecture (2006) and a Golden Award for Global Contribution in Architecture (CERA, A+D, India, 2014).

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