Introduction Le Corbusier’s first Unité d’Habitation
The Marseille Unitéd’habitation which literally means unit of habitation is the first of the series of experimental and futuristic housing blocks developed by the Architect Le Corbusier after WWII. It became one of the most influential Modernist buildings of all time with countless iterations tried by other Architects all over the world and developed in different directions and with different levels of success.
Corbusier himself built four more Unité d’Habitations in Europe. The Rough concrete he used ‘béton brut’ became the signature of the style known as Brutalism. Simply put if you are are interested in Modern Architecture or the History of Architecture this is one of the buildings you should know.
One day in early spiring this year I was in Tampere for the day and had a couple of hours to spare so I thought I would revisit a great modern building that I feel is often a little neglected, maybe because it’s a little out the way or maybe because Aalvar Aalto casts such a long shadow over Finnish Architecture or maybe a little of both.
Kaleva Church by Reima and Raili Pietilä the result of an Architectural competition in 1959 won by Reima Pietilä and Raili Paatelainen and built in 1964-66. The building sits on a small hillock at the head of the convergence of two large roads both with postwar apartment blocks lining them.
The plan is immediately surprising and consists of a series of high and narrow concrete wings made from 17 35m high hollow concrete u shapes, with full height windows in-between. Each of these concrete u’s are slightly different.
Malcolm Quantrill has written that the Kaleva Church is derived from the Christian fish symbol, generates a daring interior space, with the single-volume nave capturing a powerful, medieval sense of monumentality. I agree it captures a medieval like sense of monumentality but not about the fish symbolism. The fish symbolism appears to me to be a sop to the Christian church it houses, highly organic in nature it looks much more like a leaf. Look at the early sketches from the Pietilä’s and I think that seals it.
Foto: Simo Rista / MFA
The massive concrete walls were meant originally to remain as bare concrete but I think that someone lost their nerve some part of the way through and pale sand coloured ceramic tiles were used to cover the building instead in an attempt to play along better with the apartment blocks it sits among. It looks a little like a poorly disguised Brutalist construction though I don’t think that label sits completely comfortably for this building. The central space and how it is conceived seems so inspired by nature and pays much attention to the play of natural light and space inside make it an exceptional building, one that inspires a feeling much like that in a medieval cathedral, although perhaps lighter and more naturally flavoured.
I know this building in Finland was a little controversial when it was built, some thought it to ‘natural’ and not modern enough or functional enough for the Finnish Architectural brand but as a church part of its function is to inspire and I find it does just this.
Structures and Architecture: New concepts, applications and challenges´ edited by Paulo J. da Sousa Cruz’
Finnish Architecture and the Modernist Tradition By Malcolm Quantrill
Photo above is from Spomenik #1 by Jan Kempenaers who took three years travelling to the remotest parts of former Yugoslavia to capture these strange monuments read about them here.
Did Atopia and not Thomas Heatherwick come up with the design of the 2012 Olympic flame cauldron? Heatherwick denies it but look at this from the Guardian article which broke the story
Locog has been disbanded, but its former design principle, Kevin Owens, described the situation as “unfortunate”. “Atopia really are forward thinkers,” he said. “Strands of their work became part of what was taken forward, and I wish there was a way we could acknowledge that.” Via
Atopia’s work looks the same and aside from a few details is also conceptually and functionally the same.
A lovely well put together website on Scottish Brutalism called Scottish Brutalism but they haven’t documented anything outside of Strathclyde yet, come on guys what’s keeping you?
Christoph Ingenhoven, Meinhard von Gerkan and Pierre de Meuron are all lightly grilled by Spiegel as to why their big German Architecture projects are so massively over cost. This is a must read, it’s so rare to see behind the curtain so to speak of projects which while being great Architecture have failed in some way to deliver otherwise, along the way there is some deep insight into team working in projects.