Le Corbusier roof reborn as a gallery

The roof terrace of Marseille's Cité Radieuse will reopen this summer as an arts space
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The restored roof at Cité Radieuse, Marseilles
The restored roof at Cité Radieuse, Marseilles

Few could doubt the visionary prowess of Le Corbusier, yet some might question the social assumptions which underlie many of his residential creations. In particular, the Unite D'habitation residential blocks, with their integrated apartments, restaurants and doctors' surgeries might push even the most neighbourly of residents a little too far into their co-inhabitants' lives. The most famous of these buildings, Marseilles' Cité Radieuse, completed in 1952, remains a remarkable piece of modernist architecture, yet not every addition has suited all residents equally. In particular, the block's open-air rooftop, originally conceived as a gym and playpark for residents young and old, cost more to maintain than some dwellers could bear.

 

 

The restored roof of Le Corbusier's Cité Radieuse
The restored roof of Le Corbusier's Cité Radieuse

 

The rooftop property was sold on, adapted and run as a private concern, falling into some state of disrepair, until it was offered up for sale in 2010. Phaidon readers might be familiar with its buyer, the designer, Ito Morabito; the French luxury goods designer was featured in Spoon, our global overview of contemporary industrial design, under his professional tag, Ora-Ïto.

35-year-old Morabito grew up in Marseilles, and had long admired the block. He, along with the buildings co-owners and the French state, have spent 7m restoring this open-air space to its original glory. Yet, rather than remain true to Le Corbusier's original intent, Morabito has re-purposed it as arts space, café and artists' residences, dubbing it MAMO, an abbreviation of Marseilles Modular, as well as a cheeky nod to New York's Museum of Modern Art.

 

 

René Burri, Children playing at the Cité Radieuse (1959) Marseille
René Burri, Children playing at the Cité Radieuse (1959) Marseille

 

The first exhibition, by the French sculptor Xavier Veilhan, will open at the beginning of June, as part of the city's European Capital of Culture celebrations. We certainly hope Morabito's restoration will suit the block's latter-day residents as well as it compliments Le Corbusier's architectural legacy. To find out more, visit  Morabito's site. To understand more about Le Corbusier's life and work, take a look at our books dedicated to the great man, including Le Corbusier Le Grand, a spectacular visual biography of one of the greatest architects of the 20th century. Finally, for more on how this apartment block once looked, see René Burri's Photographs, which captures Cité Radieuse in its heyday, as well as much more besides.


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