Revisiting Le Corbusier's Most Striking Architectural Works

We channel the award-winning modernist’s creativity by curating this architectural trail of places inscribed by UNESCO as World Heritage sites
The National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo
The National Museum of Western Art, Tokyopicture cells /

Although Le Corbusier's works survive in 11 countries across four continents, UNESCO chose the sites in seven countries on three continents, which, according to them, "attest to the internationalisation of architectural practice across the entire planet," implemented over half a century.

Apart from India, the sites range from countries as diverse as Belgium (Maison Guiete, Antwerp), Argentina (the House of Dr Curutchet in La Plata) and Japan (National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo), with the bulk of the sites located across France and Switzerland.

The Open Hand sculpture in the Capitol Complex, Chandigarh
The Open Hand sculpture in the Capitol Complex, ChandigarhShutterstock

Some of the sites under the heritage list are said to have assumed an iconic position and considerably influenced contemporary architectural mores. 

Here are some of the renowned architect’s most significant buildings.

Capitol Complex, Chandigarh

One of the attractions in Chandigarh that no visitor misses out on is the Capitol Complex, an over 100-acre government compound which contains, among other things, the Palace of Assembly or Legislative Assembly, Secretariat, High Court, Open Hand Monument, Geometric Hill and Tower of Shadows.

In 2016, when UNESCO decided to inscribe a selection of works by world-renowned architect Charles-Édouard Jeanneret-Gris, better known as Le Corbusier (1887–1965), as a testimonial to the invention of a new architectural language that made a break with the past, the Capitol Complex was part of the list.

Villa Savoye, Poissy, France

The Villa Savoye is considered an icon of the Modern Movement. Here Le Corbusier used his Five Points of a New Architecture to the fullest, a form that he would himself adapt or reinterpret to fulfil various design criteria, such as a residential block (Immeuble locatif à la Porte Molitor or the Cité Frugès) or reinterpret it for the Doctor Curutchet home in La Plata or the Dominican Order priory Sainte Marie de La Tourette located near Lyon.

A bronze statue of Le Corbusier in the city centre of Poissy, France
A bronze statue of Le Corbusier in the city centre of Poissy, FrancePack-Shot /

Unité d’habitation, Marseille

This became an example of a new housing model based on a balance between the individual and the collective. It is said that it was during this period that Le Corbusier coined the term "béton brut" (raw concrete), a building material that would become an integral part of his signature designs.

Chapelle Notre-Dame-du-Haut, France

The chapel was appreciated for its unique approach to religious architecture. The seaside holiday cabin, which the architect designed for himself on the Côte d'Azur in France served as a classic design based on ergonomic and functionalist approaches. 


Interestingly, Le Corbusier had initially declined the offer to design Chandigarh but later relented when he realised the conditions would allow him to fulfil one of his dreams—designing an urban city from scratch. Although the artist was around 70 years old at the time and visited the site only a few times (the on-site execution was mostly undertaken by his cousin Pierre Jeanneret and others chosen by the master architect), the city became a symbol of Le Corbusier's signature town planning and his Five Points. Some of the key features that UNESCO focused on were a concern for natural air-conditioning and energy saving, the use of sunscreens, double-skinned roofs, and reflecting pools for the catchment of rainwater and air cooling. Green architects today can take a leaf from his works in Chandigarh.


Interestingly, while Le Corbusier is better known in India for designing Chandigarh, he also designed some important buildings in Ahmedabad (Gujarat), including two homes (Shodhan Villa and Sarabhai Villa) and two public buildings (the Mill Owners' Building and the Sanskar Kendra museum).

So next time you are in any of these cities in India, go on a trail, tracing the footsteps of the architect, theorist, urban planner, and artist. And before you set off, read up more about his work. An excellent book to read prior to your trip would be Phaidon's "Le Corbusier: Ideas and Forms" by William J R Curtis.

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