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Charles-Édouard Jeanneret-Gris alias Le Corbusier is hailed as one of the pioneers of modern architecture who was always trying to come up with new architectural designs for this century. He was at the fore front in coming up with new and modern architectural designs based upon thought and science, making use of the technology advances at the time and industrial developments in the 20th century. Applying the basic principles, he used scientific investigations to come up with new and modern house designs. He also made use of the industrial developments like the ocean liner, re-enforced concrete to modernize his buildings. This paper looks at three of the buildings he designed that conform to the above five points of his.
Le Corbusier came up with five key points that he believed were very essential for modern architecture and most of his buildings conformed to them;
- Support pillars/Pilotis_ he suggested that replacing supporting walls by reinforced concrete that would bear the structure’s load should be the principle of modern architecture.
- Roof gardens-he believed that the flat roof can not only be used for domestic purposes but also act as protection for the concrete roof.
- Free designing of the ground plan_ the internal usage of a building is unlimited if the supporting walls are absent.
- Free façade_ the façade is freed if the outside of the building is separated from the structural functions of the building.
- Horizontal window_ he believed that the rooms in a building can all be lit equally if the façade is cut along its whole length.
The Villa Savoye, in Poissy, France, was built in 1929. It is regarded the best demonstration of Le Corbusier’s five points he suggested are essential for the modern architecture. The building was developed in 1927 and he made use of the new-in-the-market reinforced concrete. The following section takes a keen analysis of the Villa Savoye, and examines how it conformed to the creator’s five beliefs.
The Pilotis/ Supporting columns
Villa Savoye has a strong foundation. Situated in an often dark and watery place, the house had to be strongly driven well below the surface. A grid of supporting concrete pillars is used to support the main living accommodation which was placed above the surface. The grid of reinforced concrete acts as the pilotis for this building.
The Roof Gardens
The roof gardens for Villa Savoye are located on the roof on top of the house. The roof garden is also constructed using reinforced concrete. Le Corbusier believed that reinforced concrete was the modern way of building a unified roof structure. This is because it expands and contracts according to the weather conditions. He envisioned that the contraction and expansion can make the house crack at times, especially when it rains. Therefore, the building maintains a relatively stable humidity on the reinforced concrete of the terrace. This simply implies that the temperature of the concrete is more often than not even. Apart from the above preemptive measure in case of sudden contraction and expansion, the building’s roof has sand that is covered with thick slabs made of concrete that have widely spaced joints. Grass is used to sow these joints.
Free Ground Plan
In Villa Savoye, the walls bear the load. These walls are superimposed from the surface. The walls were constructed in such a way that they form the ground floor, the stories all the way to the building’s eaves. The whole building is supported by these supporting walls. The reinforced concrete in the building offers the free plan for Villa Savoye. This is because the floors were now not being superimposed by partition walls. Thus, they were free.
The Horizontal Window
The windows of Villa Savoye run from one end of the building’s façade to the other. The windows provide the basic characteristics of the building. Le Corbusier took full advantage of the strength of reinforced concrete in the construction of Villa Savoye that enabled him confidently place windows side by side from one end to the other.
The columns of Villa Savoye are constructed back from the facades and are located within the house. The floor of the house continues cantilevered. This makes the facades no more than just like windows or insulating walls. Therefore, the façade of Villa Savoye is free.
The Villa Savoye conforms to all of Le Corbusier’s five points. The next section discusses another of his works.
Maison Cook also demonstrated Le Corbusier’s beliefs of futuristic architecture. Its ground floor is almost entirely open which demonstrated the architect’s beliefs of designing houses above the ground. The pilotis of this building not only supported the main house but had other advantages like preventing main house from getting damp. It was also cheaper as no digging up of the ground was required. Reinforced concrete was used in making the pilotis. Maison Cook popularized the pilotis construction of buildings.
The building also had horizontal ribbon windows. These windows ensured that there was maximum light in the building and were a deviation from the popular vertical windows, giving Maison Cook a unique allure. The windows run continuously across the whole of the elevation. The construction of a house this way in effect liberated the façade as they would not bear any weight. This made them free just like Le Corbusier had desired in the original plan as he could freely make projections on the building. He also curved his partitions on every floor in such a way that it was clear they not dependant on any of the structural supports.
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The roof of Maison Cook was made up of terraces, rather than gardens giving the occupants a better view of the street below and fresh air due to its elevated status. The roof was accessible through the main living spaces, located on the second floor of the building.
Maison Cook also fulfils the creator’s five beliefs essential for new architecture.
Unité d'habitation (Cité Radieuse)
This building is located in Marseille. It embodies Le Corbusier's futuristic view of France’s communal living coupled situation in the country after the First World War. About 1600 people stay in a slab. The building also boasts an internal street, a playing and relaxation ground. Unité d'habitation also conforms to some of his five points. The building is supported by numerous and massive pilotis. These pilotis enhance circulation at the base of the building.
The roof is flat, just like most of his designs. The roof also doubles up as a children’s nursery. Balconies are situated on every apartment. The partition walls of the building bear the load which makes the facades free. The walls also act as an adequate sound proof among the apartments, a characteristic that has made the building ideal as it combines communal living and privacy to exceptional effect. Through these walls, Le Corbusier’s free plan is achieved. Additionally, this free space becomes crucial as entrance corridors and lift stops are needed only after every third floors since two-floor apartments interlock.
Due to its characteristic as somewhat a communal village, Unité d'habitation does not have continuous running of windows. This probably was due to the people’s safety and the fact that the apartments had to be sound proof. The building was also made of raw concrete, a first at the time. Additionally, there was not enough steel for construction and also an inadequate skilled labor. However, the building was the first of its kind and has been copied many times over the years.
Le Corbusier’s points have many advantages and have been widely applied in the construction industry. For example, a raised surface shields the occupants from dampness hence protects them from water related ailments. It also saves on space as the surface beneath can be used for packing and recreation. As we have seen in the case of Unité d'habitation a proper flat roof on top of a building can serve different purposes ranging from recreational to educational. Gardens can also be established on the roof which may enhance the scenery. Lastly, terraces on the roof offer a good birds’ eye view of the streets below.
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A continuous sequence of horizontal windows ensures that a building is well lit all round. It also makes the building more appealing. However, the five points have limitations also. For example, setting a large building entirely on supports can be very risky especially if the pilotis are not strong enough. If the pilotis fail to withstand the pressure of the building, property and people beneath the building may be buried. Additionally, erecting pilotis can be expensive as opposed to laying the foundation on the ground. A concrete roof if neglected can make the building look ugly. Lastly, not all the five points can be put into use a single building. This is because buildings may have specifications that applying one of the points may be ill advised. For example, horizontal windows could not be applied Unité d'habitation because of the sensitive nature of the building.