Travel in Marseille Provence offers you a virtual visit of the Cité Radieuse with photos and explanatory captions. Discover one of Marseille most famous buildings, a symbol of Le Corbusier architectural and social heritage.

The association Le Corbusier recently asked the architect’s work to be classified as Unesco World Heritage monument.

There are 17 sites of Le Corbusier, in 7 different countries, another evidence of the architect’s importance in modern architecture history. Obviously, the Cité Radieuse of Marseille belongs to this list. Answer will be given in 2016…

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Its nickname is “la Maison du Fada” (the house of the fool). Located on boulevard Michelet (8th arrondissement), 200 metres from the stade Vélodrome, the Cité Radieuse is an exceptional architectural work. The building rests on piles to free the ground floor space allowing residents to easily move around.

Each side of the rooftop, overlooking the sea or the city is beautiful…

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It is also interesting to notice that the building is located North-South (unlike most buildings of the area). It allows the flats to have a double orientation: morning and evening sunlight. Thus there is no North orientated flat, which is very important in a sunny city like Marseille! It explains also why façades are all vitrified to allow a maximum of natural sunlight.

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Chronology

1945: construction works start
1952: Launch of the living unit
1986: The Cité Radieuse is historical monument classified

The Cité Radieuse of Le Corbusier, a concept

Le Corbusier radically changed the 20th Century urbanism and architecture. Our old cities buildings are 10 metres large and 25 high. Le Corbusier idea was to double these dimensions to free the ground floor space without reducing the density.

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In this way, we get more space between buildings (250 to 300 metres and more). These spaces would be gardens or communal green spaces, and all residents would open their windows on parks instead of streets. There would be facilities like schools, sport playgrounds, promenades, carparks… Big communal facilities would be grouped in cities urban centres, according to the « Ville radieuse » or “radiant city” idea of Le Corbusier.

To obtain 15 to 20 metres large buildings, flats are extended at the facades right angle. Thus, flats are « in depth », they are built across the width of the building and opened on its two extremities, on the East and West façades.

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The flat is built on two floors and looks like a villa. Long and large corridors, called « rues intérieures » or “interior streets”, allow to access the flats with a series of lifts. Floors are also made of three levels, the street’s level, one above and one below. On each level, the flat’s façade is extended towards the outside with a loggia. One would say the flat is a suspended villa.

Main features

  • 137 m long x 56 m high, 18 floors, 367 m high pillars, a design for 2000 residents
  • large corridors so neighbours can stop and have a chat
  • shops (check the trendy bookshop specialised in architecture and design!), preschool, library, film club, roof terrace with a paddling pool, and a hotel
  • 337 duplex flats with terraces and bay windows, slot two by two. Each flat is unique
  • 4 essential elements of the construction: the frame, artificial ground, piles and foundations

Le Modulor

The Cité Radieuse construction is based on a new measurement system created by Le Corbusier himself. He called it « modulor » (from the French « module » and « nombre d’or »).

Le Corbusier argued his system could benefit to the world two measurement systems (yours and ours!). The measurement in feet is not convenient but takes our body measurement into consideration, while the metric system is convenient because decimal, but too abstract. Le Corbusier system would optimise the relationship between man and his living space.

Examples of the Modulor scale:
Ceiling height: 226 cm
Table height: 70 cm
A kitchen element height: 86 cm
A chair height: 43 cm
A bar height: 113 cm

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