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Le Corbusier’s Cité radieuse in figures

Since 2019, one of the jewels of 20th-century architecture, designed by Le Corbusier, is undergoing a renovation that should be completed by the end of the year. Much more than a stunning subject for snapshots to post on Instagram during a stay in Marseille, this icon deserves a look back at its history.

The “Maison du Fada” is Le Corbusier’s very first public commission. This project was part of a reconstruction program in the aftermath of the Second World War. Legend has it that the Swiss-born architect was left out of large-scale projects, such as the reconstruction of Le Havre, which was entrusted to Auguste Perret. This was a fortunate sidelining, which would allow the Phocaean city to see the erection of one of its most beautiful monuments.

Le Corbusier based his architecture on the Modulor, a measurement system of his own based on a standardized human body. The body in question measures 1 meter and 83 centimeters, and its dimensions will be used to calculate the volume of the building and define the organization of the apartments. The objective? To create a more human architecture.


135, 24 and 56
This is the length, depth and height of the building respectively. A true technical achievement, the Cité Radieuse is the result of social and urban planning research. This building, which will house 1,600 inhabitants, applies the villa-building principle that reconciles the two structures through small double-story dwellings equipped with loggias.

This is the number of piles on which the floor of the housing unit rests. This process responds to one of the “Five Points of Modern Architecture” dictated by Charles-Édouard Jeanneret-Gris, alias Le Corbusier, in the late 1920s. They also include the roof terrace, the free plan, the banded window and the free façade.

Le Corbusier would later build four other housing units: first in Rezé in 1955, then in Berlin in 1957, in Briey in 1960, and finally in Firminy in 1967.

By Lisa Agostini