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Free «Unite d’Habitation, Marseille – Le Corbusier» Essay Sample

The Second World War left many people homeless, since most buildings got destroyed by the numerous attacks carried out during this period. When the Second World War ended, there was a high need to provide housing facilities to people, who were displaced during this war. Le Corbusier (a famous architect in France) started a large scale project in France known as the Unite d’ Habitation. In 1947, Le Corbusier was commissioned to design residential housing projects in Marseille that would serve the displaced persons, affected by the bombings carried out in France. The destruction from the bombings led to an urgent need for housing in France as it was in other parts of the world. The Unite d’Habitation came to completion in 1952, and its focus was on a communal living, where residents of Marseille could live, play, shop and interact in a “garden city”. Unite d’ Habitation consists of a residential block that has eighteen stories, and it can be regarded as the Le Corbusier’s conception of an urban family lodging (Sbriglio 2004, p.38).

The Unite d’ habitation in Marseille can be regarded as the Le Corbusier’s vision for the need to have people live communally and overcome the realities, which came with the post-war period in France. The vertical village found in the housing projects comprised of about 1600 people living in a single slab. The housing project consists of a park land, a recreation centre, as well as a nursery for children. The design of the Unite d’ Habitation can be regarded as one that houses a large number of inhabitants. The community designed by Le Corbusier is one, where a person can encounter a neighbourhood, which can be said to be modernist and one that uses a mixture of styles. The Le Corbusier’s main idea and concept in the building included bringing a large number of people within one place, where they could have their private spaces and also exercise and gather together for some activities (Lang 1994, p.52).



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There were some buildings destroyed during the Second World War; one of these places included the Oradour-sur-Glane, in France. The destruction of this village took place on June 10, 1944, when soldiers of the Waffen SS massacred all 642 inhabitants of this village. As a result of the destruction of this village, the president of France, Charles De Gaulle declared that Oradour-sur-Glane was to become a village Martyr. Since this destruction, the ruins of the village have been preserved, and there is a requirement that those, visiting this place, have to remain silent, until they leave. Apart from the buildings destroyed in France, there were other buildings destroyed in other places of the world. For example, the last two years of the World War II saw the destruction of some buildings in Nazi Germany. One of the buildings destroyed in Germany was the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church that got destroyed during an attack on November 23, 1943 (Lambourne 2001, p.43).

Another building destroyed during the Second World War included the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall. This building was destroyed, when an atomic bomb was released, killing thousands of people in the city of Hiroshima. The building remains preserved as a graphic memorial for people, who died during the Second World War in Japan, after the bombing of this building. Other destroyed building during this period included the Italianate ruins found in Talisay City in Philippines. During the first days of the war, the building was burnt down with the purpose of avoiding the seizure by the Japanese forces that had the intention of using it as headquarters. To date, it has become a tourist attraction site, with many people visiting the place to view the ruins (Lambourne 2001, p. 44).

Description of the building (plans and sections)

The Unite d’Habitation consists of eighteen floors, which house about 1, 600 residents. The roof of the building is a garden terrace, which consists of a club, running track, gym, kindergarten, as well as a shallow pool. There are other facilities besides the roof, which include medical facilities, shops, as well as a small hotel that has been distributed all over the building’s interior. The design of the building is such that the building can be regarded as a city within a city. The design of the building borrows from three models of design, which include the privacy, monastery, as well as the distinction between the collective life and the life of an individual (Lang 1994, p.52).

The design of the building consists of all the facilities, which can be termed as necessary for the daily lives of its residents. The building consists of 337 apartments and a shopping centre that has been arranged along interior streets. While designing the building, Le Corbusier was guided by the notion of self-sufficiency, which formed a central concept, since it would ensure that the building provided a communal life that was successful. The design and the plan of the Unite d’Habitation also encompasses feature lighting, stained-glass feature walls, large-glass entrance doors, as well as travertine floors that have been furnished. The residential apartments of the building have been located in the same floor as the hotel reception; this plan portrays the near location of home and hotel. The design of the building also entails a plan, whereby residents and guests can share shops, elevators, restaurants, entrances, and cafes (Sbriglio 2004, p.45).

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Another aspect of design of the building includes the spatial effects created by the transitional space found in the hotel lobby. The liminal qualities of the building’s entrance combine well with the threshold, found in all the private apartments. The design of the building also encompasses a clear distinction of the private and public residences. The roof of the Unite d’ Habitation consists of corridors and playgrounds, which can be seen as streets built in the sky. The design of the building has had an impact on many generations of architects; it offers a clear picture of how buildings should be planned to meet the social functions that they ought to meet (Towers 1999, p.37).

The design of the building and its overall plan are such that the living quarters, which have been set on large concrete piers, start from the second floor. The first floor consists of a sheltered plaza, which is open apart from the entrance to the building. Most of the apartments tend to be units of a double height, which is vertically wrapped around the horizontal streets.  There are sculptural ventilation stacks that can be found in the flat roof, which has been designed as a communal terrace. Some of the fundamental aspects of design, which include sun and space, have been clearly highlighted in the building (Towers 1999, p.38).

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The plan of the building also encompasses partition walls that can be found in the apartments. These partition walls tend to be load-bearing; they free the facades, thus, providing a sound proofing between the apartments. The designer created the building with thoughts of the need to have a combination of privacy and communal living all under the same roof. The free plan, which is the essence of the space found between the walls, has advanced to become a free volume. Consequently, the use of space has become ingenious, resulting to the interlocking of apartments; thus, there is an elevator and an entrance corridor required at every third level of the building (Sbriglio 2004, p.54).

A lower level of each apartment can be entered on one side of the corridors in the building. This makes it possible to take one of the sides of the building and climb the stairs to the bedrooms found above it. There are sitting rooms in the building that are bright, while there is a side of the building that has narrow and long bedrooms. While designing the Unite d’ Habitation, Le Corbusier had a number of aims in mind. One of the aims included incorporating some aspects of design, which relate to the sun and space. With regard to the aspect of sun, his aim included the ability of the building to provide solitude, as well as peace before the sun. He also aimed at ensuring that the building provides greenery and space that would be appropriate for people having families (Towers 1999, p.38).

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In addition, the design of the building encompasses carefully and well laid out proportions with spacious and bright apartments. The spacious apartments found in the building serve to ensure that there is no congestion. The efficiency in space within the Unite d’ Habitation is also enhanced by the garden space, which can be found around, beneath, and above the building. The materials used to construct the Unite d’ Habitation encompass a cast concrete. This cast concrete was chosen, since it was the least expensive material that could be used in the construction. The design of the building is also characterized by massive pilotis, which play the role of circulation of air. The building also consists of gathering spaces that can be found below the building. The façade system in the Unite d’ Habitation consists of incorporated patio that creates an abstract ribbon, which helps in emphasizing the horizontal nature of the building (Towers 1999, p.39).

The units in the Unite d’Habitation were designed with the aim of enabling them to span from each of the sides of the building. There is also a living space, which height is double; this reduces the number of corridors required by making them one in every three floors. The number of units in the building tends to be substantial through the narrowing of units, which allows a double height space. Each of the ends in the units consists of a balcony, which ensures that there is a ventilation throughout the unit. The ventilation is enhanced by the double height space and narrow bedrooms (Langmead & Garnaut 2001, p.350).

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The Unite d’ Habitation plays a number of roles and functionalities that can be summed up in various sections of the building. The various sections and facilities found in the building play essential roles. One of the main features and facility of the Unite d’ Habitation includes a hotel unit that operates for 24 hours. The hotel provides catering services to people, who need them; thus, they can access the services of the hotel, when they need them. Residents of the building can get door to door services, when they require food prepared in the hotel. Another crucial facility found within the building includes a health centre. It provides the necessary medical services and facilities, which can benefit to residents of the Unite d’ Habitation. There are doctors, who have the necessary qualifications to provide emergency services to residents, when need arises. The medical facilities serve the people, occupying the building, by ensuring that they can access all medical services within the building (Langmead & Garnaut 2001, p.351).

Another function of the Unite d’Habitation includes providing facilities such as bars. There is a bar located within a 24-hour hotel. This bar offers various drinks to revelers, who are also frequent in the bar, whenever they want to drink. There is also a restaurant that can be found within the 24-hour hotel. The restaurant is vital in providing foodstuffs and beverages for the building's occupants. There are also a number of shops, such as the laundry shop, which provides laundry services to residents of the Unite d’ Habitation. Thus, residents of the building can access laundry services at ease, without having to move outside the building, since these services are within the reach of all those, who occupy this building. There is also a bakery within the Unite d’ Habitation that prepares snacks and bread. This bakery serves the occupants of the building, and they can access the items sold in the bakery, without having to go outside the Unite d’Habitation (Ford 2003, p.183).

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The building also consists of a play ground, where people can play games within the compound. The play ground can be found at the foot of the building; 150 square yards have been allotted for the purposes of the games. Some of the games that can be played within the play ground include tennis, football, as well as basketball. There are also some running tracks set aside for those, who would like to jog.  One can change into sports attire and take exercises just outside their home, after coming home from work. The building also consists of a park, where residents can have time together, while resting. The recreation park serves to provide recreation services to residents of the building. Another notable facility provided in the Unite d’ Habitation includes a swimming pool. The swimming pool is an essential recreation facility within the building; it is where residents can go and refresh themselves by swimming, when they feel that they want to swim (Ford 2003, p.184).

The other crucial facility offered in the Unite d’Habitation includes an elevator, which is essential in serving those people who live in the upper floors. Since the building has many stories, those who occupy the higher stories can use the elevator while going to their houses. Another facility offered by the Unite d’ Habitation is a parking space, which can be found at the compound of the building. The parking space in the Unite d’ Habitation is vital as residents of the building can park their cars here. Security is guaranteed within the parking space found in the Unite d’ Habitation, and the dwellers are guaranteed of the security of their cars (Weston 2004, p.98).

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Another function of the Unite d’Habitation entails providing facilities such as asalon. The salon offers services to residents of the building, and they do not have to go outside the building, when they need to access the facilities of a salon. There is also a butchery operating within the building; the butchery sells meat to residents. Another function of the Unite d’ Habitation includes providing services, such as a gym, where residents can go and exercise. The gym has the necessary equipment and facilities, which should be found within a gym. The equipment and facilities found within the gym are necessary and adequate for residents of the building to access the relevant services. There is also a pharmacy found in the eighth floor of the building. The pharmacy sells drugs and offers medication to residents of the Unite d’ Habitation. Therefore, residents do not have to walk long distances to buy drugs as they can access them from the pharmacy found in the building (Weston 2004, p.99).

Another function of the building is ability to offer commercial offices, which house some businesses belonging to people, who may not be staying within the building. These offices serve both residents of the Unite d’ Habitation and other persons, who may not necessarily live there. There is also a nursery school within the building, where children can attend classes, before they advance to other classes. The Unite d’ Habitation also has an open air theatre, where residents can go and watch some programmes or movies that are being aired. There is also a school within the building, where children can attend, after they complete their nursery classes. Another facility present in the building is a flat roof, which provides a solarium, as well as a terrace. This allows residents to have a place where they can enjoy the sunshine as they rest. There is also a children’s playground found in building; the facilities offered in the play ground include children’s games (Weston 2004, p.100).

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The architectural design, which was used in designing of the Unite d’ Habitation, can be regarded as a masterpiece. For this reason, the building works as a whole in providing the services that it ought to provide to its residents. Over the years, the Unite d’ Habitation has acted as a significant example of public housing all over the world. The venture had been particularly successful, owing to the Modular proportions established by Corbusier, when he designed the project. The project provides services that it was meant to provide. For instance, the building provides spacious dwelling units and the facilities it was meant to provide. The arrangement of the dwelling units and their design are also typical of a proper usage of space. The building works as a whole, since the dwelling units have been laid out in a design that can be regarded as both logical and valid (Ford 2003, p.186).

Although the Unite d’ Habitation works as whole, there is a number of problems with the building that can be pointed out. Some critics argue that the building cannot work as a whole, since each of the apartments was designed for a single person only. Thus, every apartment was meant to be for only one person living alone, while at the same time sharing the benefits that come along with interacting with other people. There are also complaints from some citizens, who argue that the building has gloomy and dark corridors, as they do not have windows with the internal streets (Weston 2004, p.101).

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In conclusion, the Unite d’ Habitation was created by Le Corbusier, a famous architect in France. The Unite d’ Habitation consists of eighteen floors, which house about 1, 600 residents. The roof of the building is a garden terrace, which consists of a club, running track, gym, kindergarten, and a shallow pool. The design of the Unite d’ Habitation is such that there are well laid out proportions in terms of spacious and bright apartments. To some extent, the building and design, with which it has been built, works in a harmonious way, since both serve the needs of residents. However, the building can be criticized as somewhat inconvenient due to the dark corridors, which appear to be gloomy and scary.


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