Unité d'Habitation by Le Corbusier (1947-1952)
The seminal and much debated Unité d'Habitation in Marseilles is a monumental twelve-story concrete housing block acclaimed as one of Le Corbusier's most accomplished realizations. It represented a massive paradigm shift in the discourse on mass housing in postwar France and elsewhere. Despite a complex interchange of internalized "vertical cities" replete with internal shopping avenues, the structural scheme is deceptively simple. Because steel proved to be too expensive and difficult to control qualitatively, the building is framed by a simple rectilinear precast concrete grid which celebrates its construction by leaving the rough-hewn edges and surfaces formed by the wooden formwork unaltered, an aesthetic that gave rise to the term béton brut , or raw concrete. Le Corbusier likened the whole frame to a wine rack, in which the apartments functioned as the bottles. The apartments, which were designed (yet not fabricated) as autonomous units, were simply to be slipped into their respective voids, hugging their opposite neighbor in what has been described as a "scissor section," a solution inspired by earlier research into Soviet systems. Each unit contains a double-height living space with a deep balcony and a direct view of nature that becomes the prominent external characteristic. The notion of the building's skeleton as a "rack" for discrete, autonomous units to be plugged into is a preamble to the megastructures that would emerge in the following decades.
(Source: Home Delivery: Fabricating the Modern Dwelling by Barry Bergdoll and Peter Christensen)