Art History Lab

Redefining Urban Living: Le Corbusier’s Unit d’Habitation

The Unit d’Habitation by Le Corbusier: Redefining Modern Living

The aftermath of World War II led to an unprecedented housing shortage across Europe. In response, Swiss-French architect Le Corbusier proposed a revolutionary solution – the Unit d’Habitation.

The concept, which sought to combine the benefits of a vertical Garden City with high-density residential architecture, quickly gained traction. Today, the Unit d’Habitation remains an iconic symbol of modern living and continues to inspire architects around the world.

Background on Le Corbusier

Born Charles-Edouard Jeanneret in 1887, Le Corbusier remains one of the most influential architects of the 20th century. His unique vision of architecture, which he referred to as “the machine for living,” sought to blend form and function to create efficient and livable spaces.

He believed that architecture should serve the needs of society and improve the quality of life for everyone. Le Corbusier’s Five Points of Architecture

Le Corbusier’s Five Points of Architecture, which he outlined in his 1927 book “Towards a New Architecture,” are still regarded as a cornerstone of modern architecture.

These five principles include:

1. Pilotis: A system of columns used to raise a building off the ground, allowing for better ventilation and natural lighting while providing open space below.

2. Free-flowing facade: A facade that is not dependent on load-bearing walls, allowing for more flexibility in design and opening up new possibilities for the use of interior space.

3. Roof terrace: The use of a flat roof as a functional space, often designed as a garden or outdoor living area.

4. Free plan: An open floor plan that eliminates interior walls, allowing for more flexibility in design and use of space.

5. Ribbon windows: A horizontal band of windows that provides natural light and ventilation while also emphasizing the building’s horizontal orientation.

The Unit d’Habitation

Le Corbusier’s design for the Unit d’Habitation, which was completed in 1952, was an attempt to create a modern apartment building that addressed the housing shortages of the post-war period. Located in Marseille, France, the building consists of 337 apartments spread across 18 stories.

Each apartment includes a large living room, a kitchen, and a balcony with stunning views of the surrounding landscape. The building also includes a rooftop terrace, a wading pool, a gymnasium, a nursery, and a theater.

Design Concept

The Unit d’Habitation features the characteristic elements of Le Corbusier’s Five Points of Architecture. The building is set on pilotis, providing open space underneath and improving air circulation.

The facade features a ribbon window design, providing natural light and ventilation while also breaking up the monotony of the exterior. The flat roof is designed as a functional space, with a rooftop terrace that offers panoramic views of the city.

However, the most innovative aspect of the Unit d’Habitation is its design as a vertical Garden City. Le Corbusier believed that cities could be improved by incorporating green space into their design.

By creating a vertical garden, he sought to provide residents with access to nature while also reducing the building’s carbon footprint. The balconies on each apartment are designed to be wide enough to allow for the growth of plants and flowers.

This greenery creates the impression of a living wall that rises 18 stories into the sky. In addition, the building includes communal gardens on the rooftop terrace, where residents can grow their own fruits and vegetables.


Le Corbusier’s Unit d’Habitation remains a testament to the architect’s vision of modern living. The building’s unique design elements, such as its vertical garden and functional rooftop terrace, continue to influence architects around the world.

The Unit d’Habitation demonstrates that even in the face of adversity, innovative and sustainable design can improve the quality of life for people around the world. Analysis of La Cit Radieuse: A Look at Le Corbusier’s Radiant City Building

La Cit Radieuse, also known as the Radiant City building, is one of the most iconic buildings in the world.

Designed by Swiss-French architect Le Corbusier, the building earned its name from the concept of a “Radiant City,” which was a new urban utopia he first proposed in the early 1920s. In this article, we will examine the notable features, facilities, and collaborators of La Cit Radieuse as well as its designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Overview of the Building

La Cit Radieuse is a landmark building located in the 8th arrondissement of Marseille, France. The 17-story building was completed in 1952 and features 337 apartments, two hotels, a nursery school, and a shopping street on the ground floor.

The building’s striking design features a rough-cast concrete faade, deep-set windows, and colorful pigments on its exterior walls that evoke a steamship design.

Collaborators and Layout

Le Corbusier collaborated with architects George Candilis and Shadrach Woods to design La Cit Radieuse. The building’s layout is simple, consisting of eight corridors that run the length of the building, each with its own elevator and staircase.

The apartments are spacious and attractively laid out, with a variety of balconies and features that make each unit feel unique.

Facilities and Designation

La Cit Radieuse, known for its unique design and facilities, is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a registered historical monument. The building’s amenities include a rooftop running track, kindergarten, splash pool, gymnasium, club, and nursery.

The rooftop track was designed to provide a space for residents to exercise and enjoy the panoramic views of the surrounding area. The kindergarten and nursery were built to provide families with childcare while the adults were at work.

The splash pool and gymnasium were designed to encourage healthy living, and the club was meant to foster socialization and community involvement.

Fire Incident

In 2012, a fire broke out in La Cit Radieuse, causing significant damage to the building’s interior. The fire, which started in a storage room on the eighth floor, was quickly extinguished, but not before causing extensive damage to several apartments.

Fortunately, no one was killed in the fire, and the damaged areas were quickly restored.

Spatial Design and Reinforcement

Le Corbusier’s spatial design and reinforcement concept adopted in the Unit d’Habitation, was taken a step further in La Cit Radieuse. The building’s layout was designed to provide residents with a sense of space and comfort in their apartments.

Le Corbusier sought to create an environment that was both efficient and livable, providing ample room for residents to move around and enjoy the space.

Rooftop Amenities

One of the most innovative features of La Cit Radieuse is its rooftop amenities. In addition to the running track, there is also a wading pool and recreational areas for children and families.

The rooftop was designed with relaxation and socialization in mind, encouraging residents to spend time outside and interact with their neighbors.

Facade Design and Color

The rough-cast concrete faade of La Cit Radieuse, also known as beton brut, is one of its most striking features. The deep-set windows add to the unique appearance of the building, while the use of pigmented colors on the exterior walls creates a vibrant and colorful appearance.

This steamship-inspired design was meant to evoke a sense of movement and vitality, reflecting Le Corbusier’s vision for a more modern and dynamic world.

Interior Design and Layout

The interior design and layout of La Cit Radieuse was designed to provide residents with a comfortable and usable living space. The apartments feature duplex units with double-volume living spaces and a variety of kitchen configurations.

There are 23 living unit types, each with its own unique features, and each apartment includes at least one balcony. In addition, the eight corridors that run the length of the building are designed to bring natural light into each apartment, providing a sense of openness and connection to the outdoors.


La Cit Radieuse is a testament to Le Corbusier’s vision of a modern and livable city. The building’s unique design, innovative facilities, and vibrant colors have made it one of the most recognizable and admired buildings in the world.

Its designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site underscores the importance of preserving and celebrating the work of the architect who inspired a new generation of designers and urban planners. Unit d’Habitation Today: A Look at the Building’s Current Usage and Practices

The Unit d’Habitation by Le Corbusier, one of the most iconic buildings in the world, was completed in 1952 to address the housing shortages of the post-war period.

Today, the building’s unique design has made it a landmark and continues to inspire architects and urban planners around the world. In this article, we will examine the current usage of the building and the practices that take place within its walls.

Building Usage

The Unit d’Habitation remains primarily a residential building, with the 337 apartments on the upper floors providing a variety of housing options for residents. However, over the years, the building has also been used for various other purposes.

For example, starting in 2010, the building’s top five floors were converted into a hotel, Htel Les Cinqs Avenues. The hotel offers 21 rooms and suites, each with its own unique design and breathtaking views of the city.

Shops and Consultation-related Practices

The Unit d’Habitation is also home to several shops and spaces used for consultation practices. Many of these are architectural firms and studios, making the building a hub for design and innovation.

Additionally, there are several medical and dental practices located within the building, providing residents with convenient access to healthcare services. The building’s design, with its broad hallways and open spaces, makes it an ideal location for consultations and a variety of other practices.

The spaces themselves are both functional and attractive, incorporating many of Le Corbusier’s design principles to create a sense of spaciousness and comfort. The combination of residential housing, commercial spaces, and consultation practices within the building makes it a unique and vibrant space that serves the needs of the community in a variety of ways.


The Unit d’Habitation by Le Corbusier has had a profound impact on modern architecture and continues to inspire designers and urban planners today. The building’s innovative design, combining the benefits of both a vertical Garden City and high-density residential architecture, remains an iconic symbol of modern living.

While primarily a residential building, its adaptability and the diverse practices it houses make it a unique and dynamic space that serves the needs of its residents and the larger community alike. In conclusion, the Unit d’Habitation by Le Corbusier remains an iconic example of modern architecture, addressing housing shortages and revolutionizing urban living.

With its vertical Garden City concept, the building’s design concept and spatial innovations have left a lasting impression on the field. The inclusion of rooftop amenities, unique facade design, and functional interior layout offer residents a high-quality living experience.

Additionally, the building’s adaptation for commercial use, such as hotels, shops, and consultation practices, demonstrates its versatility and ability to meet the diverse needs of the community. The Unit d’Habitation serves as a reminder of the power of innovative design to enhance the quality of life and create sustainable living solutions.

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