Mid Century Modern Architecture Design
L'Unite d'habitation, Marseilles
When l'Unite d'habitation and its unprecedented forms became an integral part of the Marseilles
landscape, the cycle of the 'town-planning revolution' was coming full circle.
The social and political ideal of all-embracing harmony (' Grande Harmonie'}, put forward by
Fourier in his 'Phalanstery' project, pursued for more than a century, then taken up on several occasions by Le
Corbusier, became a working reality, or as Giedion says 'social imagination' finally achieved 'three-dimensional
L' Unite of Marseilles was the sum of previous hypotheses and experiments, and, above all,
at that time a triumph over the architectural hypocrisies
which, in the name of the need for rebuilding, were blanketing whole areas of the centres and suburbs of European
cities, like some inferior quality
The unashamed practicality of I' Unite proved annoying to the undiscriminating and provincial
conservativism of the Societe pour l'Esthetique de la France as it did to those prejudiced critics who could not
see Le Corbusier's logical creative continuity in the free plastic forms, and were quick to denounce them as open
repudiation of rationalist sanctions. They little imagined that they were soon to see their monotonous criticism
radically upset by the overwhelming experience of Ronchamp.
Just as l'Unite met with aesthetic judgements of form, so it came up against Francastel's
negative socio-functional evaluation. He considered that the
complex internal arrangement of dwellings and common services lessened the degree of human freedom.
In fact, this dangerous critical attitude is quashed once one recognises that l' Unite d'
habitation is the intermediate link in the theoretical chain which, as we have seen, was initially intended to
tackle the main themes of town-planning, starting by solving the problem of the living-cell. The shades of Utopia
pale before such persistent and consistent proposals and any extremes, due to early ambitions, are eventually
resolved as the overall design progresses.
This design is controlled by the conviction of being the instrument of a transformation
restricted only by society's limits of acceptance. One ought to remember that for many of Le Corbusier's
contemporaries the passage between formulation and realisation was a fatal labyrinth in which they became
L'Unite d'habitation, Nantes Reze Pilotis