Among the five Housing Units erected throughout the world (Marseille, Rezé-les-Nantes, Briey-en-Forêt, Berlin), that of Firminy was the last to be built. This unit is the fruit of the second urban planning programme designed by the architect and Eugène Claudius-Petit. This programme was unfortunately not totally completed.
Started in 1965, the building was completed by André Wogenscky. It corresponds to the concept of the « vertical garden cities » and the « modern Charterhouse ». It includes numerous key features of Le Corbusier’s architecture including : pilotis (concrete « stilts »), an open façade, an open floor plan, a sun shield and a rooftop terrace.
The use of pilotis makes it possible to free up space on the ground and maximises visual contact with the surrounding natural environment. The east/west direction of the façades is crucial to ensuring maximum exposure to sunshine for the apartments, all of which are split level with exception of the studio apartments.
The entire development was created based on the « Modulor » measurement system.
At 130.35 metres long, 21 metres wide and 56 metres high, this building includes 17 levels of flats. Seven inner streets serve the original 414 homes of various types. The school can be found on levels 18 and 19, and the rooftop terrace on level 20.
A restoration and renovation project has made it possible to reopen the northern third of the building, which was closed for 20 years. Today available as part of a joint ownership scheme, the apartments have been enlarged, in order to better meet current requirements. For its part, the southern section remains the property of the Firminy public housing office.
The school closed in 1998 after 30 years’ use. Of the three schools that Le Corbusier included as part of his project, this was the largest and without doubt the most successful.
Only the pilotis, the façades, the school and the terrace roof were listed as historical monuments in 1993. The show home has also been retained : it can today be admired as the architects originally knew it, both as a prototype and as an architectural showcase.