The Centre Pompidou is devoting a completely new retrospective, featuring some three hundred works, to the output of Charles-Edouard Jeanneret, aka Le Corbusier.

Not only a visionary architect, urban planner and theorist of modernity, but also a painter and sculptor, Le Corbusier made a profound impression on the 20th century in dramatically changing architecture and the way it is «inhabited». His international career flourished long before globalisation made its appearance.

Adopting a decidedly innovative approach, the Centre Pompidou takes a fresh look at the output of this major figure in modernity through the proportions of the human body, which Le Corbusier considered essential as a universal principle. For the architect, this «measurement of man» defined all aspects of architecture and spatial composition.

Central to a colossal and multi-faceted body of work was Le Corbusier’s conception of an essential, universal measurement: the thinking, seeing «mass production man». After his studies, notably in Germany, Charles-Edouard Jeanneret (the future Le Corbusier) was influenced by the psychophysicists and by theories on scientific aesthetics, which held that everything was measurable, including sensations, cognitive reactions and human psychology. This concept of measurement lay behind the work of the urban planner, architect and furniture designer, and imbued the work of the painter.

Mathematical it might be, but this line of research never strayed from the human being, and adapted itself to human gestures, viewpoints and thought. The «housing unit» invented by Le Corbusier was small but practical, because on a human scale, while furniture became flexible, to accommodate the movements of the body. The eye and mind of the «perceptive» viewer created a Purist picture whose interpretation was intended to be subjective. The human body – or some of its sensitive components – were subjects for painting: often women’s bodies, but also hands, feet and ears.

In 1943, Le Corbusier created the «Modulor», a system of measurement based on the height of the average man: 183 cm, or 226 cm with the arm raised. Promoted through a book entitled The Modulor: A Harmonious Measure to the Human Scale, Universally Applicable to Architecture and Mechanics, published in 1950, the «Modulor» was presented as a philosophical, mathematical and historical truth, as Le Corbusier’s invention echoed traditional systems.

The new approach taken by this exhibition presents every facet of the artist’s work through some 300 paintings, sculptures, drawings, architectural drawings, models, objects, films, photographs and documents – all illustrating the prolific output of this native of the Swiss Jura, who took French citizenship in 1930, and made Paris his home.

Commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of his death, this key exhibition aims to enlighten audiences on the breadth and complexity of Le Corbusier’s work, thinking and humanism.