Unité d’Habitation – machine for living from Le Corbusier

Unité d’Habitation

Le Corbusier

Marseille, Boulevard Michelet 280

1947 – 1952

Marseille

In the spring we decided to take a trip to a slightly sunnier place than Belgium. The choice fell on the South of France, not too far and still a lot to see. There was another reason: a few months later an exhibition about Le Corbusier on his design on the Left Bank of Antwerp would open in the MAS. I had discovered that you could sleep in a Le Corbusier creation, so not to be missed?

A building as a city

Le Corbusier worked in the 1930s on a theoretical work on urban design. An important part of this were the “machine à habiter”, living towers that were worked out as machines. Almost 20 years later, he had the opportunity to design such a tower in Marseille. In the building he wanted streets, a school, a day care center, a hotel and a mini-supermarket. There was only one entrance, so literally everyone had to go through the same door. Five of his vertical villages were built: four in France, one in Germany. All apartments are also calculated according to his mathematical system, the Modulor.

Concrete

The building is really big, some numbers:

  • 137 meters long
  • 24 meters wide
  • 56 meters high
  • 18 floors
  • 38 columns

Social

The ‘Unité d’Habitation’ had to be an experiment intended for the less well off. The apartments were rented out at social prices. Later the tenants could buy the apartments themselves, since then there are no longer any responsible prices. You now pay an average of € 350,000 for an apartment. There are 23 different types to be found: from a single type to one for a family of 10 people.

Sculptures on the roof

The roof is open to visitors. When you enter the outside space from the corridor, it looks like you are on a cruise ship. Large chimneys, sea and distant mountains give a summer feeling.

Hotel Le Corbusier

Sleeping in a building by Le Corbusier was not on my bucket list (I am not a big fan of Le Corbusier), but it would be nice. On the website of the hotel it all seems to be very nice, with in each room even a sofa of his hand. Unfortunately, not all the rooms in the complex have been furnished by the architect, the rooms of the hotel are thereby. As they say in the sales talk, the rooms are decorated in the style of Le Corbusier. This means some posters of his designs and paintings, the rest are worn-out Ikea stuff.

I also read on the hotel website that there was also a restaurant at the hotel, with a beautiful view. The prices for dinner were a little too high for us, so we hoped we could have breakfast there. Upon arrival, the reception also appeared to be part of the restaurant and we had immediately smelled the atmosphere of the restaurant. Literally. The restaurant (and the adjacent corridor) stank of fish. In the morning the scent was still there, so we decided to have breakfast somewhere else (the nearest bakery is very good, by the way).

Visit

If you are in the Marseille area, then you should definitely visit this living machine. You won’t miss anything if you don’t sleep at the hotel or have eaten something in the restaurant, so save that money for a good book. Also try to find the inner street, which is somewhat hidden, but is a gem with the benches and the special lighting.

Unité d’Habitation

 

Le Corbusier

Marseille, Boulevard Michelet 280

1947 – 1952

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