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La Cité Radieuse (residential complex)

Historic site and monument, Historic patrimony, 20th C at Marseille

  • It is the work of the Swiss architect Charles-Edouard Jeanneret, better known as Le Corbusier. This impressive structure, 165 meters long, 24 meters wide and 56 meters high, was built between 1947 and 1951. Its layout is intended to suggest an... It is the work of the Swiss architect Charles-Edouard Jeanneret, better known as Le Corbusier. This impressive structure, 165 meters long, 24 meters wide and 56 meters high, was built between 1947 and 1951. Its layout is intended to suggest an urban steamboat anchored in a park.
    Powerful elements such as the unsurfaced exposed concrete, pilings and blank gable walls are combined with other more sophisticated aspects, such as the subtle arrangement of the multi-coloured loggias, or the superstructures on the terrace roof. This plastic richness, typical of the great architect, associates visual effects with technical organisation that was exceptional at the time. This laboratory for a new "housing system" comprises 337 flats, with 23 different layouts, providing comfortable living spaces for between one and 10 people. The most typical layout is designed for 4 people. It is a duplex on two levels. On one level it takes up the whole width of the building, with a large volume for the living room. A glass panel opens the double height living room onto a balcony. In addition to these technical refinements, numerous extensions of the living space were introduced, designed to induce a new way of living in collective housing: an indoor street with shops, and a hotel for resident's visitors and family members. On the top level is a nursery school and gymnasium. Finally, the terrace roof provides an area for relaxation with a children's paddling pool, play areas and a stage sheltered by a wind-break for open air shows.
    Ignoring the mockery summed up by the term "Maison du Fada” (The Crackpot's House), its inhabitants adore the Cité Radieuse. Several flats are still inhabited by the original residents of 1952, and many others have attracted a clientele of well-to-do teachers and architects. It even gained acceptance, since Le Corbusier built other “cités radieuses” in the 1950s based on the Marseille model.
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