Le Corbusier’s apartment in Paris opens to public after reconstruction
Le Corbusier’s apartment in Paris, where he lived from 1934 to 1965, has opened to the public following an extensive reconstruction. It was led by the Le Corbusier Foundation that now allows people to experience his private studio, personal objects, bespoke design solutions and living conditions during a time when he was at peak productivity on his architectural projects with his cousin and business partner Pierre Jeanneret.
On designing the apartment building Immeuble Molitorat at 24 rue Nungesser et Coli, located on the outskirts of Paris near Boulogne, for a private developer, Le Corbusier negotiated the whole of the 7th and 8th floors for himself, undertaking to build the roof of the property at his own expense where he designed a rooftop garden.
In his new home, Le Corbusier was looking for a family environment for himself and his new wife, Yvonne Gallis, whom he met in 1922, plus his housekeeper and dog, Pinceau, as well as a studio space where he could paint, write and be creative. They all took up residence from 1934 – with Yvonne staying until her death in 1957, and Le Corbusier until 1965.
The design of the building and its reinforced frame structure allowed a ‘free plan’ to be devised within each apartment, so while there were two or three apartments per floor equipped with sanitary facilities, each household could individually design their partitions to define how they wanted to live.
Following Le Corbusier’s Cité Radieuse theories and ideas, the Immeuble Molitorat had many progressive amenities for its time; it was double glazed, which meant it could be filled with light, through the façade, skylights, and Saint-Gobain Nevada glass bricks, while remaining warm inside. There were personal and service lifts, central heating, a laundry and drying room, cellars, garages and servants rooms on the ground floor.
Radical for its time, it was the world’s first building with an entirely glazed façade, therefore joining a group of 17 works by Le Corbusier that are UNESCO World Heritage Site protected. Owned by the Le Corbusier Foundation, the apartment-studio also holds a ‘Maison des Illustres’ seal of approval and was listed as a historic monument in 1972, with the entire building following in 2017.
The reconstruction brings the apartment to life with its original coloured walls and grid-pattern tiles on the floor. Furniture pieces have been returned to their place with the sofa and Grand Confort armchair, co-designed by Le Corbusier, Pierre Jeanneret and Charlotte Perriand in the living room, and artworks by Fernand Léger, Alberto Magnelli, Henri Laurens and Jacques Lipchitz, as well as personal collections of shells, bones, pebbles displayed across the apartment. In the dining room, the marble table designed by Le Corbusier and surrounded by four Thonet armchairs sits upon a red woollen rug, woven in Tlemcen, Algeria.
The bathroom. Photography: Antoine Mercusot
In the studio, architectural details such as the 12-metre-long curving arch and exposed brick wall, that inspired le Corbusier on a daily basis can be seen, and the folding wooden panels he designed to reduce the amount of light entering the studio, which often dazzling him.
Many parts of the apartment are distinctly unique and designed or commissioned by Le Corbusier. A geometric stained-glass window made in Reims and designed by the artist Brigitte Simon and added in 1949, and Le Corbusier was inspired by an ocean liner cabin for his bedroom, where the bed was raised to be able to see the view of Boulogne over the balcony balustrade. The apartment is a chance to understand how Le Corbusier’s vision, from interior to exterior played out personally for him at home and in his studio. §