Founder of the Design Museum of London and CNN journalist, Stephen Bayley has selected the Pavilion de l’Esprit Nouveau—designed by Le Corbusier, as one of the ’20 designs that defined the modern world’.

Before going on with the list, the journalist introduces the definition of design which revolves around the effect of design on human life. He says, “Le Corbusier declared that design is ‘intelligence made visible’. That’s certainly true, but intelligence can take many forms…”.

Exposition Internationale des Arts decoratifs et industriels modernes (1925), Image via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Le Corbusier had designed the pavilion for Paris Exposition des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels Modernes, back in 1925. It was designed to be only a section of a bigger project dubbed ‘Plan for a Modern City of 3,000,000 Inhabitants’. The project’s design, which featured a rooftop balcony, took into account future challenges like overpopulation. He solved the problem by designing built-in pieces of furniture like closets, cupboards, and shelves to give more room for the occupants to live in.

Courtesy of ADAGP, Paris 2015

Back in the day, Le Corbusier’s design was not welcomed by the organizing committee of the exposition. He had no funding or even a suitable site for the project.

The pavilion inspired Le Corbusier to highlight the five points of architecture in his ‘rules of Modernism’ manifesto. The pavilion’s design clearly reflected the Swiss-French architect’s take on the excessive adornments and decorations. He wished to display, through his design, that simple forms had great value and effect.

Read more about Le Corbusier’s iconic pavilion here.

The CNN’s list comprises 19 other designs which, according to Bayley, define the modern world as we know it, and they are as follows:

[1910] The bra
[1915] Coca-Cola bottle
[1923] Ur-Leica camera
[1927] Duralex Picardie glass
[1931] London Tube map
[1949] CH24 chair
[1950] Rimowa suitcase
[1956] Braun SK4 record player
[1957] Sputnik satellite
[1958] Austin FX4 taxi
[1959] Mini car
[1960] Mini skirt
[1967] Sgt. Pepper’ record sleeve
[1979] Brompton bike
[1981] Sony Walkman
[1981] Carlton room divider
[1996] Laleggera chair
[2007] iPhone


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