Le Corbusier: an eyewear icon

Revered as one of the most influential architects of the 20th century, Le Corbusier made his mark across numerous design disciplines during his expansive 50-year career.

Intertwined with his writing, painting, furniture design, and urban planning, his visionary works helped establish modernist architecture as the leading European vernacular.

Amidst a time of significant philosophical and artistic change, Le Corbusier was part of a collective of similarly-minded contemporaries such as Mies van der Rohe who shared the same design principles that formed the modernist movement.

At the forefront of such significant change, Le Corbusier became as well known for his architectural ideologies as his austere attire. Most notably, he favoured bow ties, double breasted suits and of course, his round-eye glasses.


Black round Le Corbusier glasses on top of printed photographs

Round black architect glasses frame


Arcitect Le Corbusier looking upwards from his work desk through his thick frame glasses


His real name was Charles-Édouard Jeanneret.

It was only later in 1920, at the age of 33 when he adopted his architectural pseudonym which he adapted from his grandmother’s surname Lecorbésier. In English, it translates as “The crow-like one.”

A fitting description when you observe his studious nature, peering through his glasses at the hand-drafted schematics of buildings.


“The crow-like one.”


Close view of Swiss architect Le Corbusier wearing thick black spectacles


He was born into a Swiss-French family in the sub-alpine city of La Chaux-de-Fonds part of ‘the Jura’ mountain range; a region best known for its fine watchmaking.

Interestingly, just 5km over the border, the French Jura region also later became known for its production of exemplary wire and acetate glasses frames. A mere coincidence but worth mentioning in the context of eyewear enthusiasm.

Between the canton of Morez and the further region of Oyonnax, the Jura mountains hosts 80% of French eyeglasses manufacture.


Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret in the Architects' office in Chandigarh, India, 1950

Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret in the Architects' office in Chandigarh, India, 1950 | Image source: Canadian Centre for Architecture


5 points of architecture

Le Corbusier engaged with numerous disciplines of design. Perhaps his strongest influence was his artistic aptitude for cubism which he integrated with his ‘5 points of architecture.’

  1. Pilotis: The building’s inner supporting walls are replaced by a grid of reinforced concrete columns which bear the structural load.
  1. The free designing of the ground plan: a lack of supporting walls alleviates restriction in the way the internal spaces can be used.
  1. The free design of the façade: By separating the exterior of the building from it’s structural function releases the façade from constraint.
  1. The horizontal window: which intersects the façade to provide equal distribution of natural light
  1. Roof gardens: to provide domestic function and free space whilst protecting the concrete roof.


Aerial view of Unité d’Habitation building in Marseille France 1953

Le Corbusier's, Unité d’Habitation, Marseille, France, circa 1950 | Image credit: Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians


Le Corbusier had a strict approach to the way in which he thought buildings should be designed and constructed. It was his contemporary techniques which utterly contrasted the opulent nature of the Gothic, Baroque and Art Nouveau styles prior.

Instead he favoured a much simpler, geometrically purer approach to his work which stemmed from the industrialisation of the era. Basic geometry made in reinforced concrete, it was spheres, domes, cubes and cylinders which drove Le Corbusier’s iconic ‘purist style.’


Le Corbusier wearing his glasses on top of his head

Le Corbusier wearing his iconic thick-rimmed spectacles on top of his head. This suggests he was either hyperopic or presbyopic and primarily struggled with his close vision.


Le Corbusier glasses

Via his pragmatic demeanour and revolutionary practice, Le Corbusier is easily one of the most recognisable figures of modern architecture.

Throughout these images, you’ll have noticed his strictly sartorial dress code comprising of structured suits, formal bowler hats and his iconic bold glasses frames. It was his consistent style that we’ve come to know so well, and became what I personally argue as the origin of the round architect glasses style.

During his 5 decade career, Le Corbusier’s choice of spectacles rarely wavered. They were predominantly full-rim and made from thick black acetate which yielded his characteristic owlish look.


Architect Le Corbusier wearing his thick round glasses frame


Thick black circular glasses frame 

Similar to his functional approach, his glasses were occasionally fitted with what are known as blade temples.

Sometimes called paddle temples, they were designed to be easily slid on or off the wearer’s head. Presumably helpful for Le Corbusier whilst examining drawings or reading documents.

Intentionally or otherwise, the linear nature of his blade temples resembled the intersecting windows and voids which punctuated many of his famous geometric buildings. The Dom-Ino House, Maison La Roche, Villa Le Lac and his most famous Villa Savoye to name but a few.

Seen below, our tribute glasses frame adorns similarly simplistic geometry in the shape of the round frame front and linear, straight sides.


Side view of round black Le Corbusier glasses frame


Greyscale image of Complexe Du Capitole building in Chandigarh India

Complexe Du Capitole building in Chandigarh India | Image credit Dezeen.

Street view of Quartiers Modernes Frugès housing development in Pessac France

Quartiers Modernes Frugès housing development in Pessac France | Image credit: afasiaarchzine.com

Street view of Le Corbusier's Maison Guiette building in Antwerp Belgium

Le Corbusier's Maison Guiette building in Antwerp Belgium | Image credit: Archdaily

Immeuble Clarté building in Geneva Switzerland 1930

Immeuble Clarté building in Geneva Switzerland | Image credit: Pinterest

The Villa Savoye modernist building by Le Corbusier

The Villa Savoye, built with reinforced concrete in Piosy, France, 1931. Designed in collaboration between Le Corbusier and his cousin Pierre Jeanneret | Image credit: Vogue


Alternatively, Le Corbusier’s other glasses frames featured drop end temples.

These would have provided a more secure fit on his head due to the hockey-curve ‘drop’ behind his ears. Perfect for office work whilst he inevitably looked downward over his many drawings and ideas.

However, these slight changes in temple-choice were invariably part of a round-eye frame front; his signature frame of choice.


The famous architect Le Corbusier peering through his round spectacles at his drawing desk


Throughout his career, Le Corbusier's geometric spectacles aligned perfectly with his pragmatic ideals, alluding to the eyewear icon we admire so much.

Whether you’re an architect or not, this frame style has great relevance and reflection towards of one of history’s greatest creatives. This is a bold style for bold characters and favourite even amoungst TV icons such as Oprah. Who sports many a striking round eye and makes it work. A level of recognition and studiousness we can strive to achieve through this enduring spectacle style.

As homage to his style and work as an architect, we’re proud to handmake our own interpretation of his thick round glasses as a single one-off piece.

If you'd like us to make you a pair of these architect glasses, we are able to do so under the proviso of a short-run production batch. By registering your interest, we will keep you notified when we can make your very own Le Corbusier glasses.


Black architect spectacles lying folded on top of drawings


“Architecture is the masterly, correct and magnificent play of masses brought together in light. Our eyes are made to see forms in light; light and shade reveal these forms; cubes, cones, spheres, cylinders or pyramids are the great primary forms which light reveals to advantage; the image of these is distinct and tangible within us without ambiguity. It is for this reason that these are beautiful forms, the most beautiful forms. Everybody is agreed to that, the child, the savage and the metaphysician.”


Le Corbusier sitting at his desk experimenting with caged light


Hopefully you found this article helpful. Please check out our other eyewear icons. Thanks for stopping by. If you enjoyed this article you may well enjoy our other feature regarding Philip Johnson's glasses.

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