UNESCO Adds 17 Le Corbusier Buildings to Its Storied Ranks

The celebrated works by the Swiss-French architect span five seven countries and five decades of his practice.

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Swiss-French architect Le Corbusier (born Charles-Édouard Jeanneret-Gris) was celebrated this week when UNESCO added 17 of the modernist’s most impressive buildings to its World Heritage List, forming a "transnational serial site" spanning five decades of his architectural practice and seven countries: Argentina, India, Japan, Switzerland, Germany, Belgium, and France. UNESCO said the Le Corbusier–designed buildings it chose to inscribe "reflect the solutions that the modern movement sought to apply during the 20th century to the challenges of inventing new architectural techniques to respond to the needs of society," adding that "these masterpieces of creative genius also attest to the internationalization of architectural practice across the planet." From villas to civic buildings and housing complexes, here are some of the distinguished Le Corbusier works added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List. (It might not be a surprise that 10 of the 17 recognized structures are in his adopted home of France.)

Notre-Dame du Haut

Ronchamp, France 

Le Corbusier’s Notre-Dame du Haut represents a key shift away from the sparse, functionalist form of modernism the architect displayed in his earlier projects. The sculptural chapel was completed in 1954 to replace a church after World War II. It was designed to be a somber space that relies on the expressive form of the structure and use of natural light.  

©FLC/ADAGP, Paul Koslowsky

Cité Frugès

Pessac, France

From 1924 to 1927, Le Corbusier and Swiss architect Pierre Jeanneret—Le Corbusier’s cousin and frequent collaborator—built the experimental settlement of 51 single-family houses dubbed Cité Frugès in Pessac, France. Each of the houses was designed using the same five-square-meter module (roughly 54 square feet).

© Ville de Pessac, Nikolas Ernult

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Maison Guiette

Antwerp, Belgium

Maison Guiette marked Le Corbusier’s first foreign commission in the mid-1920s. Belgian artist and art critic René Guiette asked the architect to design his live/work studio in Antwerp after seeing the temporary Pavilion de L'Esprit Nouveau structure installed in Paris. The building, also known as Les Peupliers, is Le Corbusier’s only remaining work in Belgium.

© VIOE, P. De Prins

Villa Savoye 

Poissy, France

Situated in a small commune outside of Paris, Villa Savoye is one of Le Corbusier’s most recognizable achievements. The architect’s modern take on a French country house (designed in collaboration with Pierre Jeanneret) was the last building in his series of Purist villas. The structure is tailored to Le Corbusier’s Five Points of a New Architecture manifesto, with pilotis that lift the building up above the ground, a flat roof that could serve as a garden and terrace, open-plan interiors, horizontal windows for light and ventilation, and a "free" or unrestrained facade.

© FLC/ADAGP, Oliver Martin-Gambier

Maison La Roche

Paris, France

Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret built Maison La Roche for Swiss banker and modern art collector Raoul La Roche. The house includes a gallery for La Roche’s cubist art collection and his private apartment, and sits adjacent to another home the duo constructed for Jeanneret’s brother. Completed in 1925, the building comprises two white volumes that join to create an L-shaped plan. Today, Maison La Roche-Jeanneret operates as a museum for the Fondation Le Corbusier. 

© FLC/ADAGP, Oliver Martin-Gambier

Cabanon de Le Corbusier 

Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, France

Le Corbusier designed this seaside holiday cabin on the Côte d'Azur in France, where he spent every summer from 1952 until his death in 1965. Made form prefabricated parts, the compact cabin contains a single wood-lined room with no kitchen or indoor washing facilities. (There was an adjoining restaurant on the site where Le Corbusier ate.) The architect’s colorful murals decorate the otherwise minimal interior. 

© FLC/ADAGP, Oliver Martin-Gambier

Unité d’Habitation

Marseille, France

Le Corbusier was commissioned to design this multifamily residential housing project in Marseille as part of a rebuilding effort after World War II. The Brutalist housing complex, which the architect called La Cité Radieuse (or "The Radiant City") includes 337 units of 23 different types, as well as two shopping streets, a hotel, and a rooftop terrace. Rather than employing the smooth white surfaces that typified many of his buildings, Le Corbusier chose béton-brut  (or raw concrete) for the exterior. By setting the windows in a recessed grid, the building reduces heat gain. The colors indicate different apartment units.  

© FLC/ADAGP, Bénédicte Gandini

See the full list of 17 Le Corbusier buildings added to the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Related Reading:

Design Icons: 24 Modern Architects and Designers That Have Shaped Our World

Le Corbusier: The Most Stylish Architect in History


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