Studio Negri recently visited Unité d’Habitation in Marseilles built between 1947-52. The twelve story apartment block for 1.600 people was built to meet a severe postwar housing shortage. Twenty-three different apartment configurations were provided to acccommodate single persons and families as large as ten, nearly all with double-height living rooms and the deep balconies that form the major external feature.
Key features are Le Corbusier’s five principles:
- Freestanding support pillars
- Open floor plan independent from the supports
- Vertical facade that is free from the supports
- Long horizontal sliding windows
- Roof gardens
There are communal rooms, shops (also the “Le Corbusier” hotel), a kindergarten, a theater etc., and on some floors “rues intérieures” (interior streets) complete the internal facilities. The “House”, which is supported by 17 pairs of concrete stilts – these also contain the supply services – represents a whole town for some 1,600 inhabitants.
The basic idea behind this construction was to provide accommodation for many people in the smallest possible area and to leave room for green open spaces.
The building is constructed in béton brut (rough-cast concrete), as the hoped-for steel frame proved too expensive in light of post-War shortages. The Unité in Marseille is pending designation as a World Heritage site by UNESCO. It is designated a historic monument by the French Ministry of Culture.
The internal duplex apartments are described here