4 notable and historic spaces of architect Le Corbusier

Seventeen of the Swiss-French modernist architect’s projects, including two sacred spaces, were recently named to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list.

Villa Savoye (Villa les Heures Claires) 1928-1931, Poissy, Paris.

Imagine for a moment being an architect and having even one of your projects named to a list of the world’s most famous cultural sites, along with the Pyramids of Giza in Egypt, India’s Taj Mahal, and the Angkor Wat temple complex in Cambodia. The achievement of a lifetime, right? Then imagine that not one but seventeen of your structures are named to this prestigious list. Mind-blowing!

Swiss-French modernist architect Le Corbusier, also renowned for his influence as a designer and urban planner, received several awards in his lifetime, but probably could not have foreseen receiving this particular honor. UNESCO, a peace-building branch of the United Nations, has just named 17 of Le Corbusier’s structures in seven different countries to its list of of World Heritage Sites, a collection of places singled out for their special cultural or physical significance, and deemed worthy of preservation.

Several of these starkly beautiful buildings are religious structures, including a chapel and convent; the UNESCO list also includes cultural institutions and private homes.

Though Le Corbusier never professed a particular religious faith, he spoke with reverence about experiencing “the miracle of ineffable space.” The sacred structures he designed are notable for the way they allow a dramatic, almost otherworldly interplay between light and shadow, which would seem to open the soul to an encounter with the divine. The UNESCO selections all considered icons of Le Corbusier’s masterful modernism. Below are five of Le Corbusier’s most-revered spaces.

Saint Marie de la Tourette Dominican priory near Lyon, France was finished in 1960.

France, Rhône (69), Eveux-sur-Abresle, couvent Sainte-Marie-de-la-Tourette bâti par Le Corbusier en 1953

Covent Sainte-Marie-de-la-Tourette bâti built in 1953. Eveux-sur-Abresle, France. Denis Caviglia | hemis.fr

The chapel of Notre Dame du Haut in Ronchamp, France was completed in1954 and is considered one of the finest examples of twentieth-century religious architecture.

Chapel Notre-Dame du Haut by Le Corbusier

Chapel Notre-Dame du Haut build by Le Corbusier between 1953 and 1955, Ronchamp, France. John Frumm | hemis.fr

Le Corbusier’s Maison de la Culture, completed in 1965, is a part of a cultural complex in Firminy, France.

Maison de la Culture by Le Corbusier

Maison de la Culture in Firminy, near Saint-Etienne, France. Philippe Desmazes | Getty Images

Villa Savoye, is modernist villa located just outside Paris in Poissy. Le Corbusier designed it with his cousin, Pierre Jeanneret, also an architect. It was built between 1928 and 1931.

Villa Savoye by Le Corbusier

Villa Savoye (Villa les Heures Claires) 1928-1931 in Poissy near Paris. Blick Von Nordwesten | Alamy

It makes even the most casual of architecture buffs want to embark on a world tour of modernism. But if that’s out of reach, content yourself with the full photo gallery from Arch Daily and feel how Le Corbusier designed his spaces to invite the faithful, and not-so-faithful, into the divine. As Alya Lepine writes in Architectural Review, “Architecture does not teach us what the sacred is, but it may touch it and draw others to it.” Here’s to being drawn in.

Sarah Koops Vanderveen
Sarah Koops Vanderveen

Sarah Koops Vanderveen is a freelance writer living in Laguna Beach, California. She and her husband David are parents of two college-aged sons. Sarah is the author of ‘Once by the Pacific: Laguna Beach in Poems and Pictures.’

Leave a comment: