Le Corbusier’s Marseille masterpiece turns 70 with an exhibition of respectful design
The Unite d’Habitation apartment complex – a Brutalist treasure in the suburbs of Marseille – is now as popular with architecture enthusiasts as Le Corbusier foresaw when he designed it in the 1950s. as such its landmark 70and anniversary did not go unnoticed.
In one of the apartments with bay windows in the Cité Radieuse, Ygaël Attali, co-founder of Philia Gallery in Genevaorchestrated a tribute to what she calls “one of the most influential historical figures in contemporary design”.
The two-month exhibition not only celebrates the UNESCO-listed space ringed with concrete, teak and primary colors, but also the modernist theories of Swiss-born master Charles-Édouard Jeanneret. Entitled Heritage, the exhibition is freely accessible to visitors to the building.
Attali commissioned eight international designers to create works for two adjoining rooms in the resort and more for the rooftop terrace and outdoor pool. They aim to explore and reinvent Le Corbusier’s concepts of “resonances” and “dissonances”: classic yet radical, heroic yet simple, beautiful yet brutal. Viewed as a whole, the showcase analyses, distills and illustrates designer Modulor’s theory of proportions and the decades of criticism – good and bad – that dogged him throughout his career.
“Either by affiliation or by disaffiliation, she says, this whole exhibition questions her work and her heritage, and intends to respond to her theoretical but also controversial genius.
In the first room of the apartment, designers such as Rick Owens, Pietro Franceschini and Arno Declercq present new and timeless furniture and homewares designed according to the principle of “resonance”: clean, mathematical, functional and raw. In the second, the relatively “dissonant” works of Roxane Lahidji, Jojo Corväiá, Niclas Wolf and others seem to escape symmetry and easy replication, challenging ideals of standardization and regularity. All of the designs, while unmistakably “modern”, seem to defy a specific era.
To decorate the rooms, publishers from the radical parisian art magazine Eclipse chose contemporary works with a modernist spirit by Edgar Sarin, Mateo Revillo, Sam Szafran, Fabrice Hyber and Flora Temnouche. The pieces act “both as a tribute to and a critical reflection on [Le Corbusier’s] theoretical and artistic ideology,” according to the editors, who are mostly artists themselves.