The Modulor: Le Corbusier’s Universal Standard

On 31 March 2021, by Claire Papon

Who is this big red man with an athletic build? The Modulor, a kind of universal master standard for housing and furniture that Le Corbusier developed between 1942 and 1950.

Charles Édouard Jeanneret, Le Corbusier (1887-1965), Modulor, Novopan cut-out, some parts in relief, entirely lacquered in red, 178 x 72 x 4 cm (70.08 x 28.35 x 1.58 in).
Estimate: €100,000/150,000.
© FLC-ADAGP

In Roquebrune-Cap-Martin during the summer of 1958, two Modulor figures, one with his arm raised, the other with his arm lowered, were drawn on Novopan panels and their parts highlighted by Le Corbusier. They were then cut out and painted by Charles Barberis, a Corsican-born carpenter based in Villeneuve-Loubet on the Côte d'Azur, to manufacture and deliver the numerous orders from the architect's building sites. This human silhouette is the outcome of many years of mathematical, morphological and humanistic research. It took shape in 1950 with the publication of an essay. Another essay five years later contained applications, critiques and a discussion of this Modulor, which had become indispensable to its inventor.

The Claude-et-Duval hosiery in Saint-Dié-des-Vosges, Cité radieuse in Marseille, La Tourette convent, Jaoul houses in Neuilly-sur-Seine, institutional buildings of Chandigarh, India, Ronchamp chapel and cottage in Roquebrune-Cap-Martin—the archetype of the smallest unit (3.66 by 3.66 meters square and 2.26 meters high, 12 x 12 and 7 ft), clad in wood and lit by two windows—prove that the Modulor is suitable for all structures.

Le Corbusier gave Charles Barberis both cut-outs, which he displayed at his company until 1965. The Centre Pompidou acquired the one with the raised arm several years ago. Ours was given to Guy Rottier (1922-2013), an architect who worked with Le Corbusier.

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