The great pioneer of Modernist architecture, Le Corbusier has created a multitude of stunning buildings across the world – from France to India, the USA and back. He was a dedicated architect and urban planner. Le Corbusier’s work reflected his intentions of providing better living spaces. Here we take a look at fifteen extraordinary examples of his work, which every architecture lover should know.
1. Villa Savoye
Villa Savoye is arguably Le Corbusier’s most renowned work and a prime example of Modernist architecture. The sleek geometry of the white living space, with its elongated ribbon windows, is supported by a series of narrow columns around a curved glazed entrance – and topped with a solarium. Completed in 1931, this building was revolutionary: the use of reinforced concrete required for fewer load-bearing internal walls, allowing for an open-plan design.
2. Unite d’habitation
Multifamily residential housing project that focused on community life for all its inhabitants projecting a place to shop, play and live, a” Vertical Garden City “. The Unite d’Habitation in Marseille, France was the first large scale project for the famed architect, Le Corbusier.
Unite d’Habitation is one of Le Corbusier’s most important projects, as well as one of the most innovative architectural responses to a residential building. So much so, that the United’ Habitation is said to have influenced the Brutalist Style with the use of beton-brut concrete. Unite d’Habitation has since been the example for public housing across the world.
3. Notre Dame du Haut
Iconic Notre Dame du Haut is one of the earliest Modernist churches. It is not a total departure from traditional church architecture, with its stained glass, tower, and high ceilings, symbolically drawing the eye – and the mind – towards heaven. Each window is cut through the wall in different sizes and angles, scattering ethereal colored light across the room.
4. La Roche-Jeanneret Project
Villa Jeanneret & Villa La Roche are two semi-detached houses commissioned in 1923-25 and now house the Le Corbusier Foundation. Due to contemporary building regulations, windows were limited, so light courts, a roof terrace, and skylights were introduced to harness the natural light available. The sleek white exterior with dark-framed ribbon windows is similar to that of Villa Savoye, but the asymmetry of the structure – with a curving roof terrace evoking the deck of a ship – gave it new freedom.
5. United Nations Headquarters
The meeting place of world leaders, the United Nations Headquarters is a building with status. The imposing rectangular tower is dominating, yet dignified. Surrounded by the skyscrapers of New York, this building needed to stand out: blue-tinged glass reflects the water below, while the two windowless concrete walls give the building a refined status of solidarity and endurance, which are key aspects of the United Nations.
6. Cabanon de Le Corbusier
It is the place where Le Corbusier preferred to spend summers in the months of August and September. Although the Cabanon resembles a traditional Canadian log cabin from the outside, it was carefully designed along with modular principles developed by Le Corbusier. The cabin is the smallest of Le Corbusier’s projects to be added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List of internationally significant architecture. It is also the most tied to the architect’s personal life.
7. Palace of Justice, Chandigarh
The colorful structure of the Palace of Justice is a prime example of Le Corbusier’s work in India. With a curving roof similar to that of Notre Dame du Haut, the regularity of the arcade gives the building gravity and solidity. The geometric apertures of the windows resemble traditional Indian fretwork, creating a texture that contrasts with the smooth faces and tactile curves of the roof. Red, yellow, and blue, combined with the colors of the Indian flag, complete this balanced and harmonious building.
8. Maison Curutchet
It is one of the few projects of Le Corbusier in Latin America. The form of the building echoes traditional Latin American courtyard houses, while also exemplifying Le Corbusier’s five points of architecture. It is seen as an example of successful modern architecture for its balanced dialogue with its surroundings while incorporating the elements of Le Corbusier’s design ideologies including a ramp and spiral stair.
9. Palace of Assembly, Chandigarh
The Palace of Assembly is the elegant counterpart to the nearby Palace of Justice. Set beside an azure pool, this busy place nevertheless, evokes serenity and reflection. There is a regularity to the building, with few deviations from the design system. A flat-roofed block with rectangular windows is hidden behind a monumental facade, with a U-shaped roof piercing the severity of the concrete. More sedate than the colorful Palace of Justice, its equilibrium of form and symmetry, even so, makes the Palace of Assembly an equally-striking building.
10. Heidi Weber Museum
Now home to Centre Le Corbusier, the Heidi Weber Museum was originally commissioned as an Exhibition Centre. Located beside blue Lake Zürich and surrounded by evergreen firs, the location vibrates with color. The steel-framed building contains sheets of glass and primary colors beneath a vast grey roof, hovering like a geometric cloud above the structure. Taking inspiration from Rietveld’s Schröder House in Utrecht, and the works of De Stijl artist Piet Mondrian, this building embodies an era of new and exciting art and architecture in Europe.
11. Maison de la Culture
The house of culture is installed on an artificial cliff in the old quarry “Razes”. Its angled facade dominates the sports complex and faces the municipal stadium. The structure is composed of 16 sections organized over three levels with a detached roof, featuring an asymmetrical curve that rises 1.3 meters. Maison de la Culture is one of 17 buildings by Le Corbusier to have been added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List of internationally significant architectural sites.
12. The National Museum of Western Art
The museum is square in plan with the main body of the galleries raised on piloti to the first-floor level. The layout is influenced by Le Corbusier’s Sanskar Kendra museum in Ahmedabad which was being designed at the same time. Throughout the building, the vertical circulation is mostly through ramps, and a skylight system brings natural light into the galleries. The facade is made of precast concrete panels that rest on steel brackets. The National Museum of Western Art is the famed architect’s only built project in the far east. It remains open to date and houses the work of significant western artists including Rodin, Manet, Picasso, and Pollock.
13. Mill Owners’ Association Building
After Le Corbusier began his work in Chandigarh, he began to create a new headquarter for the Mill Owners’ Association. While there are few curves in this building, the slanting walls beside the small, domestic windows give depth to the texture of the building. The structure does not appear dominating or austere, but warm, welcoming and full of life. The verdant location and integrated foliage are vital to creating a healthy atmosphere.
14. Sainte Marie de la Tourette
Sainte Marie de la Tourette is a Dominican priory, considered one of the most important works of Modernist architecture in the world. There are 100 bedrooms, various halls, a library, a refectory, a courtyard, cloisters, and a church. The refectory and cloister form a symbolic cross leading to the church. There is also symbolism in the rough finish: it is functional, tough and unrefined, but this helps create harmony in the buildings, compatible with the life of those within.
The last major work of Le Corbusier, the building was completed posthumously in 2006 – 41 years after his death – by his student José Oubrerie. The great cone rises from the land like the surrounding mountains, and the exterior is plain concrete, unanticipated beauty awaits inside. Le Corbusier’s innovative use of windows is epitomized in Saint-Pierre, with strips of windows in primary colors and a projection of circles akin to constellations in the night sky. Space is a cave that embraces the visitor like a womb – a sanctuary in the turbulent world.