Definitions

habitation

Unité d'Habitation

The Unité d'Habitation (French, literally, "Housing Unity" or "Housing Unit" since Unité has both meanings in French) is the name of a modernist residential housing design principle developed by Le Corbusier, with the collaboration of painter-architect Nadir Afonso. The concept formed the basis of several housing developments designed by him throughout Europe with this name.

In the block's planning, the architect heavily drew on his study of the Soviet Communal housing project, the Narkomfin Building.

Cité Radieuse

The first and most famous of these buildings, also known as Cité Radieuse (radiant city) and, informally, as La Maison du Fada (French - Provençal, "The Lunatic's House"), is located in Marseille, France, built 1947-1952. Probably his most famous work, it proved enormously influential and is often cited as the initial inspiration of the Brutalist architectural style and philosophy.

The Marseille building, developed with Corbusier's designers Shadrach Woods and George Candilis, comprises 337 apartments arranged over twelve stories, all suspended on large piloti. The building also incorporates shops, sporting, medical and educational facilities, and a hotel. The flat roof is designed as a communal terrace with sculptural ventilation stacks and a swimming pool.

Inside, corridors run through the centre of the long axis of every third floor of the building, with each apartment lying on two levels, and stretching from one side of the building to the other, with a balcony. Unlike many of the inferior system-built blocks it inspired, which lack the original's generous proportions, communal facilities and parkland setting, the Unité is popular with its residents and is now mainly occupied by middle-class professionals.

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.

Other buildings and influences

Le Corbusier's utopian city living design was repeated in four more buildings with this name and a very similar design. The other Unités were built in Nantes-Rezé 1955, Berlin-Westend 1957, Briey 1963 and Firminy 1965.

The replacement material (béton brut) influenced the Brutalist movement, and the building inspired several housing complexes including the Alton West estate in Roehampton, London, and Park Hill in Sheffield. These buildings have attracted a great deal of criticism. Other, more successful, manifestations of the Unité include Chamberlin, Powell and Bon's Barbican Estate (completed 1982), Gordon Tait's Samuda Estate, Isle of Dogs (1965) and Ernő Goldfinger's Trellick Tower (1972), all in London.

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