Charles-Edouard Jeanneret, known as Le Corbusier, born in a small city in Switzerland, is one of the renowned architects of the 20th century. After studying classical architecture in his town, he began to learn and explore other cultures. Traveling to Italy, then Budapest and Vienna, he finally came to Paris and became a French citizen in 1930. His work is now considered the global figure of the Modern Movement in architecture. His remarkable structures are all over the world, especially in Europe, Japan, India, and North and South America. He was a complete artist with the skills of a writer, urban planner, painter, sculptor, and designer. At an early age, Le Corbusier invented a new architectural language that gives way to light with modernized techniques and technologies. His idea was to create functional spaces to meet the social and personal needs of modern people. He developed the five principles for a new architecture:
- A building lifted on pilotis stilts,
- A self-supporting structure formed with columns and beams,
- The façade should be free, mainly glazed,
- Flexible open plan that can be modified as per the user’s requirements,
- The roof will act more like a garden.
Sainte Marie de La Tourette Monastery, completed in 1960, is the last major work of Le Corbusier in Europe. The uniqueness and richness of the masterpiece are so exceptional that it was chosen by French architects to be the second most important project in Paris following the Pompidou Center designed by Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers as number one. Because of its prominent testimony in the era of modernism, the structure was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2016 with sixteen other works by Le Corbusier. The Monastery covers 16,500 sq. ft. near Lyon, France. The brief was to create a silent dwelling with supporting facilities to accommodate the lifestyle of silent monks. The concrete building houses the monastery made of one hundred individual cells, a library, study rooms, one workplace, an entertainment room, a dining room, and a church, all built to serve the specific lifestyle of monks.
The quadrilateral arrangement of spaces is made strictly traditional with a church, a school with a library and classrooms, a chapter serving as a town hall, and the public areas. The first thing at the entrance is a public gathering space which is followed by the baggage counter or a porter. Keeping it nearer to the church and also to the entrance is room for the person who does prayers, also known as lay-brothers. After entering, on the right is the chapel and to the left are supporting service rooms, i.e., classrooms, library, washrooms, etc., surrounding the cloister.
At the lowest level is the refectory, church, lower church, spiral staircase to the entrance floor, etc. The spatial arrangement is zoned out based on functions. The entrance floor of the monastery serves several public spaces, which is followed by the lowest level including the church and the refectory. The top floor or the cell floor is basically for the accommodation and is much quieter than the rest of the structure. The structural form of the building is made up of reinforced concrete, the architect’s favorite material, which is also cheaper. The façade of the building is free from any structural responsibility, hence designed carefree and filled with glass on three out of four sides of the structure. The system called “the undulatory glass surface” allows for maximum light to penetrate within the building as well as the air circulation of the inner courtyard.
It could be said that the building reflects the image of Corbusier, followed by his design principles. The central courtyard of the complex consists of different forms of geometry in every part of the structure: a cylindrical chamber within a spiral staircase placed off-center in the plan connecting all three floors, a prism roof, pyramids, and polygons on the top of the projection on church’s wall.
The church itself gives a spiritual essence with bold colors and natural light, both chosen wisely. The concept of letting in light with five different phenomena: light cannon, light gun, light ray, loggia, and undulating glazing. In this church, the most remarkable and interesting room seems to be the chapel. Here you find the special stepped areas in the form of a square and table that ascend from six stages, representing the rise from earth to paradise and the Christ in the Sacrament descending. Right after entering the complex, there is a ramp down to the church via a concrete corridor leading to the tall metal wall that rotates and luminescence the church.
The monastery is built of cement and its lines are exceptionally basic and stark, the seriousness eased by Corbusier’s trademark strip windows. In fact, it is these windows that, especially from within, give the structure a lot of its magnificence. Each zone in the building is treated differently in terms of openings to outside, depending on the activities of the zones.
At La Tourette, numerous parts of Corbusier’s created design language are apparent – the vertical brise-soleils, light cannons puncturing solid masonry walls created window-openings isolated by Modulor-controlled vertical divisions. By raising the construction on pilotis that allows the settlement to undulate voluntarily, circulation was given at the highest point of the design.
The structure is planned to start from the top to the base, and its arrangement started with the line of the covering; an incredible flat closure with the emphasized downwards slope where the structure rested through ‘pilotis’. As far as architectonic arrangement, this project addresses the response to the brief of the requirements. The entire spaces, like the refectory, the congregation or the conference centers; and the single homes, for example the unit cells of Dominican monks, were impeccably proportioned for what is generally required: silence and harmony.
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