Project Unité, Firminy

Le Corbusier’s Unité d’ Habitation, a monumental block of low-income apartments awkwardly wedged into the hills surrounding the small city of Firminy in central France, may once have functioned as a beacon of hope; now it bears witness to a return of the repressed capitalism in crisis haunting the house of high Modernism. Completed in 1967 as part of a larger complex including a youth center, a stadium, and a church, the building was intended as a visionary response to the economic disenfranchisement caused by rapid industrialization. Continuing recession, however, has sharply reduced the local population, and many of those who remain prefer individual residences. Today the unité stands half empty.

French curator Yves Aupetitallot selected this Corbusier building for his project precisely because of its symbolic complexity—its status as both a monument to France’s greatest modern architect

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