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Essay: Le Corbusier’s Unité d’Habitation

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  • Subject area(s): Architecture essays
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  • Published: 7 February 2019*
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  • Words: 918 (approx)
  • Number of pages: 4 (approx)

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Le Corbusier’s Unité d’Habitation is similar to the Swiss Pavilion, however, it is a upgrade in terms of livelihood and motion. While the Swiss Pavilion houses students exclusively, the unité d’habitation houses a wider range of people from individuals to families. Despite the difference in the residents, both buildings are built similarly with repeating windows and rooms that can be seen from outside. They also both share the concept of public spaces, however, unité d’habitation exceeds the pavilion’s public spaces in terms of creativity and overall enjoyment. Unité d’Habitation contains ‘rooftop terraces where families can relax while children play’ (Curtis, 440). While the pavilion uses concrete and rubble walls, Unité d’Habitation is mainly composed of concrete which gives it the brutalistic image. Le Corbusier still uses his five points in the Unité. The building stands on large ‘reinforced concrete stilts, which allows people to move through the building freely. The sides of the building contain many windows, and the horizontal windows cuts through its entire length which enables light to be spread equally among all rooms. Finally, the roof of the building has a terrace for the residents’ passtime’ (438).
Both the individual and collective needs were fully provided in Le Corbusier’s Unité d’Habitation. To meet the individual needs of the residents of the apartment, each apartment ‘possesses a double height living room with a terrace and a lower portion passing through to smaller balconies on the opposite side’ (437, Curtis). In addition, ‘there are 23 different types of apartments to meet the wide range of resident types whether it be a single individual or a family’ (437). Although the units were stationed into the overall ‘lattice of the building’s structural frame, the aesthetic was neither repetitive nor bust’ (437). This provides uniqueness and value to the individual aspect of the building and ultimately ‘avoids banality’ (437). On the other hand, communal needs were also met through clever stacking of rooms, hallways, and the outdoors. The ‘individual apartments were stacked in a manner that allowed the double height part of one room to sit below or above the single height part of another, creating a jigsaw structure’ (440). Although, the residents of the building cannot directly interact with each other from their individual units, the structure of the rooms are always interacting with one another to create an overall shape and aesthetic that may not be obvious at first. So, Corbusier creates a sense of community from the start even without present residents. To further enhance the communal aspect of the apartments, Corbusier added a ‘corridor at the middle level of the building that acted as a street interior’ (440). This common public space creates a sense of community because it is used by everyone and cannot be avoided when in motion from one area of the building to another. Finally, the apartments have ‘rooftop terraces where residents can sit and relax as their children played’ (440). This portrays the comfort and joy that being part of a community brings. The Unité is able to meet the needs of every person of all ages.
In 1967, Neave Brown’s Fleet Road Terrace Housing was built in London to blend the new and old urban patterns to achieve a low rise solution. High risers were very obstructive to the urban environment, blocking views and creating huge barriers to the livelihood of the city. Similar to Le Corbusier’s unité habitation, Brown ‘incorporated several features of the traditional London terrace but combined these with an entirely modern interlocking section based upon reinforced concrete’ (450, Curtis). To humanize the building, he also created a night functional planning by placing ‘lights deep within the dwelling through the use of a stepped section’ (450). This brings in a new feature to the building design that Le Corbusier did not have. The addition of the light provides emotion throughout the day. In addition, ‘some units were placed alongside master bedrooms as a separate adult area up above’ (451). This was an example of how the building contains ‘many ingenious responses to the practical needs of everyone’s daily existence’ (451). This helps provide a sense of character within the building, similar to Le Corbusier’s unité habitation.
The Campus Center at UMass contains similarities to Le Corbusier’s unité habitation in the physical and internal aspects of the building. From the physical aspect, the Campus Center is made of concrete and it very blocky, very much like the unité d’habitation. The pillars on the ground level of the building are also very large and visible. There was no design and intent in creating a building with a sleek and thin framework. This shows the human-like and realistic value the buildings have. Both buildings also have a repeating pattern of windows that could easily be thought of as ‘a wine rack where each unit could be replaceable by simply exchanging it with a new unit’ (440, Curtis). From an interior perspective, both buildings have many individual rooms for residents as well as many public spaces for social gatherings. The Campus Center has the campus hotel for families and athletic teams as well as an auditorium downstairs and multiple catering areas for people to purchase and dine in. The Campus Center almost resembles the campus itself. The Campus Center also acts as a tunnel leading students into the building from one end and out to the other. Like the unité d’habitation, the Campus Center has a wide hallway that branches off to retail food stations, kiosks, auditoriums, offices and more.

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