The Cité Radieuse


The "Cité radieuse" of Marseille is a post-war residence built by Le Corbusier in the 8th arrondissement. It is an essential part of Marseille's history. At the end of World War II, due to the lack of housing, especially social housing, the Minister of Reconstruction ordered a housing unit in Marseille. Le Corbusier proposed an experimental and innovative project. Its aim was to radically renew traditional housing, in particular by increasing the volume of buildings.

A real architectural innovation

Like the four other housing units designed by Le Corbusier, the Cité Radieuse de Marseille is based on the Modulor model, an architectural concept of his invention. According to its objectives, it should provide maximum comfort in the relationship between man and his living space. It is a system he considers more suitable than the metric system because it is directly in line with human morphology. Modulor is a contraction of "module" and "nombre d'or" ("golden number") because its proportions are related to the golden number.

The apartments are oriented east-west and intertwine while forming an inner street. Le Corbusier wanted to give priority to meeting places between inhabitants and therefore optimized the spaces in this direction.

Completed in 1952, after 5 years of construction, its 137 metres long, 24 metres wide and 56 metres high, give to La Cité Radieuse the capacity to accommodate 360 apartments.

Le Corbusier: a housing unit in the heart of Marseille

This avant-garde model, Le Corbusier calls it "the vertical garden city". It is a set of individual apartments built in the logic of a collective structure mounted on stilts. The complex is furnished with the equipment necessary for the development of social life (pastry, gourmet restaurant, hotel, nursery, bookstore etc...) as well as offices and public buildings. The flat roof is accessible to the public and also houses: the kindergarten playground, a contemporary art centre, an athletics track, a small children's pool and even an open-air auditorium. The housing unit imagined by "le fada" ("the crazy man") was built in 1952 after five years of work and immediately became the focus of criticism. However, the building has become a "school" because other Cités Radieuses have been built based on the Marseille model, including one in Germany.

The first inhabitants of the Cité Radieuse were modest and middle-class families. Today, given the success of the residency, it is the senior executives and intellectual professions who are interested in living there.

The site, which became a historic monument in 1995, is increasingly visited by tourists coming to visit Marseille.

Le Corbusier

A multifaceted architect

Charles-Édouard Jeanneret-Gris, also named Le Corbusier, has left his influence on the architectural world. The originality of his works is in part due to the diversity of his talents: as an architect, decorator, painter, urban planner, sculptor and writer, Le Corbusier leaves nothing to chance when it comes to the execution of his projects. For many years criticized, his talent ended up being recognized and his project of "Cité Radieuse" was selected. Throughout his career, his plans were criticized and considered too modern. Even today, his works are still controversial. 

Le Corbusier's other works

In total, Le Corbusier has left us 17 buildings, including 10 in France.

All of his work has been classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 17 July 2016.

If you are visiting Marseille, and whether or not you are passionate about architecture, do not hesitate to make a stop. From the flat roof, the view of the Phocaean city is magnificent and worth the trip.

Instead of taking public transport, why not go for a bike rental or a segway rental to stroll around and visit the monuments of Marseille?

Le Petit Train will delight families by showing you around the city on two separate routes. Remember to go to the ticket office to avoid queues, which are particularly difficult in the sun and summer heat.