Le Corbusier’s 5 Points of Architecture & Modern Examples

Le Corbusier is one of the most important actors of the 20th century and the history of architecture. The world-famous modernist architect Le Corbusier listed 5 principles on which he would base his building designs throughout his life in his manifesto, Towards a New Architecture. These modern architectural principles were later used in many buildings and influenced countless architects until today. Accordingly, Le Corbusier’s 5 points of architecture are as follows:

  • Pilotis
  • Ribbon window
  • Free plan
  • Free facade
  • Terrace garden

The five principles of modern architecture were first published in 1920 in the journal L’Esprit Nouveau, of which Corbusier was one of the founders. Later, Le Corbusier published his manifesto, which consisted of his collected articles, into a book in 1923. This work, which serves as a guide to modernist architects, is one of the most important architectural resources of the 20th century.

Le Corbusier’s 5 Points of Architecture

1. Pilotis

Pilotis among the Le Corbusier's 5 points of architecture
Pilotis example

The idea of building rising on the pilotis is one of the most effective solutions of modernism. In this way, the contact of the buildings with the ground on the zero elevation is reduced. Thus, less interruption of pedestrian circulation is ensured. The ground floor, freed from the walls, has been made open to various activities.

Thanks to pilotis, the relationship between the green elements and the interior has been strengthened, the ground floor has been used as a parking lot in some buildings, and sometimes completely transparent facades have been created that are not related to the carrier system.

2. Ribbon Window

It is a narrow window type that extends like a horizontal band from one end of the facade to the other end. Ribbon window designs are generally used with the free facade principle of modern architecture. The reason for this is to prevent the window covering the entire facade from being blocked by any carrier elements.

The biggest advantage of the ribbon window is that it provides a wide luminous environment inside. So much so that, Corbusier stated that the best way to illuminate an interior is horizontal ribbon windows.

3. Free Plan

Separating each interior space with walls is a quite strict and impractical attitude. People who had started to get used to the practical and variable lives of modern times needed more flexible interiors. In line with this need, Corbusier defends the idea that buildings should be designed with a free plan. Designing the building with a open plan breaks the stagnation arising from the fixity of the walls and spaces.

In open-plan structures, you can easily change the location and function of the spaces or remove the walls independently of the carriers. However, Corbusier did not consider it right to design an entire building with a free plan. Instead, he ordered the spaces according to the degree of privacy; Then, he seperated private spaces such as bathrooms and bedrooms from open spaces with the help of walls.

The greatest convenience in creating a free plan is reinforced concrete, which is one of the basic building materials of modern architecture. Thanks to reinforced concrete, the load-bearing function of the walls is no longer necessary. By this way, placing the walls has become only a matter of spatial needs.

A free plan isn’t just about removing walls or stretching boundaries between spaces. One of the most important advantages of the free plan architecture is that it ensures the possibility of designing the interior spaces and the building form independent from the grid layout and the carrier system.

4. Free Facade

Separating the walls from the carrier allows architects to design not only open plan but also free facades. Thanks to the free facade, which is one of Le Corbusier’s 5 points of architecture, exterior walls can be designed independently from the carrier system. Thus, glass facades continuing throughout the storeys, windows or uninterrupted ribbon windows can be designed.

Moving the carrier system away from the facade inward is the basic way of creating a free facade. In this way, it has become possible to create an external wall in desired materials, textures, forms and sizes.

5. Terrace Garden

The modern house "Living Machine" Villa Savoye's terrace roof, which is one of the 5 points of architecture.
Villa Savoye’s terrace roof

According to Corbusier’s philosophy of modern architecture, a roof should be used both as a terrace and as a garden. Terrace roofs, which are generally covered with green elements, are one of the most important innovations of modern architecture. In this way, some of the green space occupied by the construction area of the building can be recreated on the roof.

Moreover, the green elements provide a significant thermal insulation to the building thanks to the soil layer they have. Additionally, concrete reflects the sun’s rays into the atmosphere and triggers global warming, while green roofs dampen the sun’s rays. For this reason, it is also beneficial in climatic aspects. The terrace roof reveals a new typology of space as an alternative to interior spaces.

Five Principles in Modern Architecture Examples

Villa Savoye

Having one of the most important experimental building designs of the last century, Villa Savoye is the most special house that embodies the 5 points of architecture. Villa Savoye, in which Corbusier shows the basic building principles in a single structure and presents it as an example of new architecture, is a living machine, in the words of the architect.

One of the most important architectural design is Le Corbusier's Villa Savoye
Villa Savoye

The ground floor, which rises on the pilotis, is designed with the open plan principle. The main living spaces inside are connected by a ramp to the upper floor and the terrace roof. On the facades, there are ribbon windows throughout and a distinct stance from the structure. Villa Savoye, with its terraced roof adorned with plants, is the most obvious summary of Corbusier’s architectural philosophy.

Badari Residence

Located in India, this contemporary residential structure was designed by Cadence architecture office in 2019. The most interesting aspect of the design is the curved movement on its front view. The facade, designed independently of the carrier system, almost resembles a painting.

5 points of architecture in modern architecture examples
Badari Residence – ©Shamanth Patil

It is possible to see this curved design approach not only on the facade but also on the floors. We should also mention that the building has a green terrace and some parts that are designed with open-plan.

MAXXI Museum

The queen of curves, Zaha Hadid, who passed away in 2016, left magnificent architectural structures behind. One of these structures is the MAXXI 21st Century Artworks Museum in Rome. Although the museum building reflects the architectural taste of our age, it is possible to see that some of Le Corbusier’s principles are used skillfully here.

Exterior of Maxxi Museum
MAXXI Museum – ©Andreas Hunziker, Flickr

Le Corbusier principles seen in the Maxxi Museum are: free facade, free plan, pilotis and ribbon window. Although these features do not dominate the whole building, it is possible to see these principles in some parts of the design. You can learn more about the building by reading our MAXXI Museum article.

Fallingwater House

This building, which is a masterpiece like Villa Savoye, is among the most important works of Frank Lloyd Wright. The natural context in which the house is located reflects the design character of the building. It is possible to see the dynamism in the mass of the Waterfall House, which has a very dynamic design, in the floor plans.

architectural design in context example fallingwater house
Fallingwater House

By designing the common areas in an open plan style, Frank Lloyd Wright has brought the fluidity of both the exterior and mass of the building to the interior. Thus, freed from the gridal system of the reinforced concrete structure, the interior spaces have intermixed to form common and variable spaces. In this building, it is more correct to talk about the activity areas, not the rooms.

There are spatials such as the music area and the dining area that are separated by spatial atmosphere and location, not by walls. You can click here to learn more about the Fallingwater House, one of the most important works of natural architecture and modernism.

To summarize, Le Corbusier thought that architecture had different needs due to his interest in industrial machinery and the social environment between the 2 world wars. These needs have been determined to facilitate and rationalize the basic life functions of rapidly urbanizing populations. As a result, industrial structures emerged in line with Le Corbusier’s 5 points of architecture and the foundations of an architectural thought that is still discussed today were established.

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