You are here:

  1. Home >
  2. Blog
Le Corbusier brings fame to Firminy at last

Le Corbusier brings fame to Firminy at last

11 Dec 2012 BY Dominique's Villas

There is a dogged refusal among the French establishment to even acknowledge the possibility that Charles Edouard Gris, better known as Le Corbusier, was responsible for many of the social evils some believe have flowed from his architecture. Instead, the government will shortly propose that his entire work, perhaps 125 buildings worldwide, many of course within France itself, should be declared by Unesco a world heritage site.

Le Corbusier saw the concrete tower block as a means of rescuing slum dwellers from their dingy, cramped existence, by building upwards and giving them spacious light-filled apartments, linked directly to integrated shopping streets, and surrounded by gardens and cultural facilities. Alas for his vision, many local authorities seized upon the savings made possible by using less ground space and provided very few of the amenities that Le Corbusier saw as an integral part of his ideas. Instead they built dark, dingy, high-rise apartments separated by the thinnest of walls, served by lifts constantly out of service, marooning their occupants and providing the perfect environment for social deprivation and youth disorder.

One of the few places where Le Corbusier’s ideas were carried out in full is the 12-storey Unité d’Habitation, constructed in Marseille in 1952. It has a rooftop garden and swimming pool, a gym, a nursery, two centres for the elderly and several shopping floors, all for the benefit of its 1,600 residents. The Le Corbusier tower is, needless to say, a coveted address and now contains even a hotel.

A smaller version that includes a school and a social club is part of a huge collection of Le Corbusier buildings in Firminy, a quiet industrial town near the wooded hills of the Massif Central. Almost 42 years after his death in a swimming accident, Firminy has just managed to complete one of Le Corbusier’s final designs: an extraordinary concrete church that looks rather like one of the funnels on the Titanic. If Unesco declares Firminy part of a worldwide Le Corbusier heritage site, the good times may return to the town after a long period of slow decay that began when its coal mines were abandoned and its engineering works closed.

View our villa near Marseille >>