The Remarkably Unique Architecture of Le Corbusier

The Remarkably Unique Architecture of Le Corbusier

By Alex Mikayelyan January 13, 2022

Few names in the vast world of architecture stand out as much as Le Corbusier, the beloved, and even sometimes revered, Swiss-French architect. While you will find many famous names in 20th-century architecture, few are as iconic as Le Corbusier and his unique approach to the craft.

As a homeowner who is looking for possible inspiration for your current or future building projects, there is quite a lot to learn from Le Corbusier. While his designs may seem somewhat outlandish at first glance, once you get into the finer details of his thought process behind his work, you begin to see the practical side of his designs and how you can even incorporate them into your own construction projects. 

Who Is Le Corbusier?

The Life of Le Corbusier Before Becoming an Architectural Icon

The Life of Le Corbusier Before Becoming an Architectural Icon

Born Charles-Édouard Jeanneret-Gris in the Swiss town of La Chaux-de-Fonds in 1887 to a family of artisans and artists, Le Corbusier was exposed to an industrial world from an early age. The town he was born in was industrial, so it can be presumed that Le Corbusier grew up seeing bulky buildings and structures all around him.

In his teen years, Le Corbusier studied visual arts, though did not receive a formal education in architecture. In fact, much like his contemporaries, he would go on to learn the craft entirely on his own by making it a habit of going to libraries and reading up on the subject. He was inspired and fascinated by architecture so much that by the age of 18, with the help of two other students, he would go on to design and construct his first building, the Villa Fallet. This is one of Le Corbusier’s early works, if not the earliest, and stands to this day on the outskirts of his hometown.

Not unlike many other artists growing up in the kaleidoscope of inspiration that is 20th century Europe, Le Corbusier didn’t have a formal education but instead relied on his surroundings to teach him about architecture. It was through his passion for the craft that he was able to carve out such a big name in the industry. And this is evident in how influential his vision and work have been in the world of architecture.

Le Corbusier’s Five Points of New Architecture

The Cunning Use of Pilotis In Le Corbusier Designs

The Cunning Use of Pilotis In Le Corbusier Designs

In 1920, with the help of poet Paul Dermée and painter Amédée Ozenfant, Le Corbusier published the magazine L’Esprit Nouveau which would go on to last for five years. It was in this magazine that Le Corbusier first introduced his famous five points of new architecture that influenced future generations of architects all across the world. These five points are the backbone of Le Corbusier’s modernism which he would go on to create throughout his long-lasting career.

1. Pilotis

A common element of Le Corbusier architecture is a unique look to the ground floor. Some of the most renowned Le Corbusier works stand on posts called “pilotis” instead of having a ground floor. These are generally used for coastal structures to protect them from flooding by a nearby body of water.

While this practical use for pilotis is usually relegated to coastal structures, Le Corbusier used them in his designs even if they were far from any coast. Le Corbusier’s use of pilotis freed the design of the structure from the ground below. This way, the design of the structure does not need to conform to the landscape below.

2. Free Ground Plan

The free ground plan directly correlates with the pilates, as the absence of a ground floor opens up opportunities to get more creative on the floors above. With the whole structure raised on pilates, there is no need for a ground floor plan that would limit the design possibilities above. This is how Le Corbusier designs have their unique aesthetics without sacrificing structural integrity. 

3. Free Façade Design

The façade is the exterior of the building. Even if your vocabulary is a little rusty, you can most likely make out the root of the word “face”. In terms of architecture, the “face” of the building is its exterior. In more conventional architectural designs, the façade is dictated by the practical aspects of the building, so in a way, form follows function.

According to Le Corbusier’s third point, the façade can be separated from the rest of the building’s design and be allowed to have its own unique aesthetic, isolated from the rest of the structure. This gives architects a lot more control over their designs, allowing them to be more creative over how their designs look, even if they are meant to be practical.

4. Horizontal Windows

Because of the way the ground floor is raised above the landscape and how there are no load-bearing walls on his structures, Le Corbusier’s designs have the freedom to use windows of various shapes and sizes. Conventional designs would rely on the load-bearing walls to dictate how the windows will look, usually a vertical rectangle.

Le Corbusier windows, however, are long and horizontal, allowing the inhabitants to have breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape. Because the load-bearing walls are absent, installing these kinds of windows does not disrupt the structural integrity of the building. 

5. Roof Garden

While traditional roofs are commonly angled to provide proper irrigation, Le Corbusier roofs, are generally flat and the irrigation is done primarily through piping. The flat roof gives the residents more liveable space as opposed to sloped roofs. And what better way to make use of extra flat space than to build a roof garden? Many of Le Corbusier’s designs incorporate biophilic design elements such as rooftop gardens. 

Notable Architectural Works of Le Corbusier

Villa Savoye

Le Corbusier’s Design Principles Exemplified by the Villa Savoye

Le Corbusier’s Design Principles Exemplified by the Villa Savoye

Designed and constructed in the late 1920s to early 1930s, Villa Savoye sits on the outskirts of Paris. It was originally constructed for the Savoye family as a retreat, after which it was used as the official Le Corbusier museum. After its renovations in the 1980s, the villa still stands and is currently a UNESCO world heritage site. The Villa Savoye encompasses all of Le Corbusier’s five points of new architecture, from the pilates on the ground floor to its flat roof and horizontal windows.

Church Notre Dame Du Haut

Le Corbusier’s Unique Take On the Church Notre Dame Du Haut

Le Corbusier’s Unique Take On the Church Notre Dame Du Haut

This Roman-Catholic Le Corbusier chapel is built on the site of the original chapel that was constructed in the 4th century CE. It was destroyed in World War II and was rebuilt a decade later with an entirely new appearance that was radically different from the ancient structure. With its bright Le Corbusier color exterior and geometric structure, the Church Notre Dame Du Haut is another great example of the artist’s iconic vision. 

Unité d'habitation In Marseille

The Unité d'habitation in Marseille is a residential complex that incorporates the architect’s five points. Unité d'habitation is actually a set of residential buildings that can be found throughout Europe. All these complexes were designed with the unique Le Corbusier to design style and were fully-fledged residential apartments. With 321 apartments in the entire building, the construction of the Marseille Unité d'habitation complex was completed in 1952. As with other works by Le Corbusier, the Unité d'habitation in Marseille became a UNESCO world heritage site in 2016 after it was damaged by a fire in 2012.


Written by
Alex Mikayelyan

Written by Alex Mikayelyan