Charles-Edouard Jeanneret-Gris was born on 6th October 1887 in la Chaux-de-Fonds, in the Swiss Jura. After some years spent studying at the town’s art school, he pursued his career as a self-taught man, travelling a great deal throughout his life. His meeting with the Perret brothers, who were architects, was a determining factor with regard to choosing “formwork removal reinforced concrete” in his constructions. As a multi-faceted character, he went by the name of Le Corbusier from 1920; architect, urban designer, painter, writer, sculptor, designer, he himself defined architecture as “the learned game, correct and magnificent, of forms assembled in the light". As an architect of worldwide renown, he constructed more than 75 buildings in 12 different countries, and was involved in around 200 projects. He died in an accident on 27th August 1965 at Roquebrune Cap-Martin during the construction of the Firminy-Vert district, which remains the largest urban site produced by the architect in Europe.
Eugène Claudius-Petit was born on 22nd May in Angers. Having trained as a cabinetmaker, he left for Paris (Faubourg Saint-Antoine). On his return, he taught drawing at the school in Ampère (Lyons). Here he joined the Resistance, which took him to Algiers. He was close to General De Gaulle, working as minister for reconstruction and urban planning from 1948 to 1952, MP for the Loire on several occasions, and mayor of Firminy from 1953 until 1971.
He was a loyal friend of Le Corbusier, and he called on him to produce several buildings within the district known as Firminy-Vert.
The district of Firminy-Vert
Firminy is a town with a strong mining history, whose population grew during the 19th and 20th centuries due to the rapid expansion of the iron & steel and metallurgy industry.
In 1953, Eugène Claudius-Petit had a social, economic and human assessment carried out in his town so as to determine the needs of the population. The poverty of homes and the lack of hygiene and comfort were the predominant resulting factors.
It was in the light of this that Eugène Claudius-Petit devised, as the first part of an urban development plan, the rehabilitation of the town centre and the creation of a new district: Firminy-Vert. This new district, which was produced by four architects: Charles Delfante for urban development, while André Sive, Marcel Roux and Jean Kling put together an urban development plan that was radically different from the former "Firminy la Noire". These architects worked according to the principles of the “Athens Charter” (drafted in 1933 at the 4th International Congress of Modern Architecture), which covers the major ideas of Le Corbusier.
This charter makes provision for reserving a major part of the land space for green areas. The four fundamental functions are: "living, working, recreation and circulation". People should be able to fulfil their potential within a context in which “sun – space – greenery” predominate.
Starting in 1957, 1070 social housing dwellings were produced, together with shared services such as schools and social & shopping centres. Thoroughfares were organised into a hierarchy from footpaths to the various roadways.
This project won the Grand Prix d’Urbanisme (urban design competition) in 1961 and is now protected by a Zone de Protection du Patrimoine Architectural, Urbain et Paysager (ZPPAUP) (architectural, urban and landscape heritage protection zone).
From 1954 Le Corbusier worked on the “Centre Civique” (civic centre), made up of four buildings: the Maison de la Culture, stadium, swimming pool and church of Saint-Pierre.