Did you ever sleep in a hotel with an architecture bookstore on your floor? In Marseille that’s possible. We stayed at Hotel Le Corbusier, to be found in Le Corbusier’s famous building Unité d’Habitation. The hotel on the third floor of the building is combined with apartments on the other floors. It’s a great design hotel which I can advise anyone who’s visiting Marseille.
Most interesting in fact is to personally experience the obsolescence of modern architecture. The first observation is the fragrance in the building — strange, but familiar. It reminds me of the elderly apartment complex my grandmother lives in. It combines two main elements: the typical aroma of common spaces in concrete apartment blocks, and the odor of predominantly older people. It doesn’t smell, but it’s far from fresh and doesn’t represent the clearness as showed on the pictures in the architecture books. Would Le Corbusier have ever imagined that his modern architecture would smell old-fashioned? It’s not strange though. The modernistic buildings has become mature, and the people that want to live in this predefined modernity did so too. The concrete is of the oldest type and the dark brown wooden workmanship inside the building is well preserved, but in contemporary perception typically traditional. In fact the whole building breathes as an old-timer when it comes to the lifestyle of its inhabitants, its fragrance and the building materials.
On the third floor, where the hotel is located, a traditional restaurant, a traditional bar and pastry bakery, an art gallery and an architecture book store can be found. It’s interesting to see how an architecture book store can survive on the third floor of an apartment complex, situated pretty far from the city centre of Marseille. But that’s only because most hotel guests are architects themselves.
In fact these services on a third floor only work in the modern society as perceived by Le Corbusier and some of his disciples (a world in which people were considered a main production element in an industrialized working economy) but the world has changed in another direction. So did the average body length. Okay, I’m 1.95 m. (which is quite tall), but that immediately makes everything in Unite d’Habitation pretty narrow. This becomes clear when measuring myself with an original Modulor, Le Corbusier’s own proportion system, which is rather famous among architects. One thing we should compliment the architect with are the concrete desktop tables constructed as an integral part of the balconies, which are definitely timeless. They’re most certainly still the best place for laptop workers in the warm climate of Southern France.