Born in Switzerland, Jeanneret trained as an artist, then travelled extensively, and finally settled in Paris. In 1917 he met the painter and designer Amédée Ozenfant, with whom he developed "Purism", an aesthetic that promoted simple geometric forms. In 1920 they founded L'Esprit Nouveau, a magazine that proposed functionalist ideas in architecture and city planning. Articles were signed with pseudonyms, and Jeanneret chose Le Corbusier, his mother's forbear, a name he retained thereafter. Articles written during the next 5 years led to his idea of the house as "a machine for living".
In 1922, Le Corbusier opened a studio with his cousin, Pierre Jeanneret. He began rapidly to develop his ideas for a new 20th-century style of architecture, drawing on engineering latest technology and using new materials such as ferro-concrete and sheet glass.
The Citrohan House, a project he exhibited in the Salon d'Automne of 1922, incorporated the 5 characteristics that defined his conception of modern architecture: pillars supporting the structure, a roof terrace that could be transformed into a garden, an open floor plan, an ornament-free façade, and windows in strips.
In 1927, the design he submitted in a competition for the new centre of the League of Nations at Geneva was disqualified on highly implausible grounds, but it was to become the prototype of all future United Nations buildings. The scandal arising from this disqualification brought Le Corbusier to the forefront of public attention as a leading exponent of avant-garde architecture. His Swiss Building at the Cité Universitaire, Paris (1931-32) further increased his reputation.
World War 2 ended Corbusier's 20-year association with Pierre Jeanneret, who joined the French Resistance. Meanwhile, he developed his "Modulor" concept, which related architectural measurements to human stature, thus permitting his buildings a human scale.
After the war, Le Corbusier was invited by the French government to design a large housing complex in Marseille. This became the Unite d'Habitation (1946-52), a vertical community of 18 floors, housing 1,800 inhabitants in various types of apartment, and providing facilities such as shops, a school and even an open-air theatre. He also designed a religious building, Notre Dame du Haut (1950-55), in Ronchamp, France.
In 1950, the Punjabi government approached Le Corbusier to direct the construction of a new capital at Chandigarh. This was his first chance to apply his city-planning principles on a metropolitan scale, and he also designed the Palace of Justice, the Secretariat and the Palace of Assembly. The result, which had little reference to local tradition, immediately influenced architects all over the world. Le Corbusier's work was now "respectable" and universally acclaimed. He continued to design new projects until his death in 1965.