Can the work of architect Le Corbusier be explored in the context of the Design Cycle Model and was it reflected in his modernist approach to architecture?

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Le Corbusier was a well known Swiss-French architect in the early to mid 20th century who helped lead the modern architectural revolution and influenced the direction that architecture and urbanism took. This essay will explore and investigate the question; Can the work of architect Le Corbusier be explored in the context of the Design Cycle Model and was it reflected in his modernist approach to architecture? This topic is worthy of study as there are no books which examine the inter-relationship between the Design Cycle Model (DCM) and the work of Le Corbusier. This essay will present this new perspective of architecture and focus on Le Corbusier’s modernist approach to design. From a personal perspective the subject is worthy of exploration because of a deep interest in the areas of design technology, architecture and in particular a keen interest in Le Corbusier.


The DCM is an important aspect of design technology in the International Baccalaureate (IB) and is examined and discussed in Topic 1: Design Process. There are six stages in the Design Cycle Model, these are:

  • Identifying a need or opportunity
  • Research and specification
  • Generating ideas
  • Developing ideas
  • Realisation of ideas
  • Evaluation, (International Baccalaureate Organization p. 45, 2007)

The DCM diagram (International Baccalaureate Organization 2007, p. 46) demonstrates that the stages are not in a set order and it is important to note that each stage can be revisited multiple times depending on the complexity of the project. These stages create the following chart which shows that the design process is not linear.

Design Cycle Model

This affects the essay as the examples of Le Corbusier’s work given will be taken from various points in his career and can be applied to the same or different stages in the model. These stages will be looked at individually in respect to the work of Le Corbusier to identify whether the DCM can or cannot be applied to his work and whether this was reflected in his architectural designs, structures and urban planning.

Le Corbusier was born, Charles-Édouard Jeanneret-Gris, in the October of 1887 in Switzerland. He was principally an architect and designer but was also a published author and creative abstract painter. Le Corbusier began as an architect; he studied at La Chaux-de-Fond’s College of Art and had his first apprentice under Charles L’Eplattenier. He was a very controversial but was an admired architect whose ideas were revolutionary and different from most architecture in his time. This era was dominated by established architectural styles such as Gothic and Baroque which Le Corbusier rebelled against. Later in his career he helped to form the International Congress for Modern Architecture (ICMA) and went on to design a vast array of buildings.

Identifying a need or opportunity:

Many people who design or draw start with a need, a problem or an opportunity. The ability to identify needs or opportunities and effectively articulate and pin point the desired outcome is important. This is relevant even if it is a simple problem of needing to produce a new piece of art to maintain an artistic reputation. The identifying needs and opportunity stage involves the designer being given or identifying a problem, need or opportunity that can be solved through the use of a product or better design.

Le Corbusier was born and grew up in a time when people ‘beheld a dead world. He beheld a dead architecture, wholly classical and formal, crammed with Baroque motifs and stylistic trappings.’ (Furneaux 1972, p.6). Buildings and churches such as Einsiedeln Abby Church in Switzerland and Palace of Versailles in France would have greatly influenced Le Corbusier’s departure from the norm. This style of architecture could not motivate him however; it did inspire Le Corbusier to work towards a better, and more efficient design. It also helped him to identify the need within the world for more appropriate architecture.

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Le Corbusier was given and created many opportunities to design and implement his ideas on modern architecture. On arrival in Paris in 1917 Le Corbusier identified a design problem. He recognised that the slums and the suburbs did not provide an adequate living area for the lower class French population. These areas were full of disease, discomfort and poverty. This is demonstrated through a quote taken from his book The Radiant City ‘A million people are living in the slums of historical Paris. Another million are existing in the difficult conditions of the suburbs’ (Le Corbusier 1967, p.13).

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