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  7. AD Classics: Ronchamp / Le Corbusier

AD Classics: Ronchamp / Le Corbusier

AD Classics: Ronchamp / Le Corbusier
AD Classics: Ronchamp / Le Corbusier, © Gili Merin
© Gili Merin

© Gili Merin © Gili Merin © Gili Merin © Gili Merin +22

From the architect. In the commune of Ronchamp, slightly south of east of Paris, sits one of Le Corbusier’s most unusual projects of his career, Notre Dame du Ronchamp, or more commonly referred to as Ronchamp.  In 1950, Le Corbusier was commissioned to design a new Catholic church to replace the previous church that had been destroyed during World War II.

© Gili Merin
© Gili Merin

The site of Ronchamp has long been a religious site of pilgrimage that was deeply rooted in Catholic tradition, but after World War II the church wanted a pure space void of extravagant detail and ornate religious figures unlike its predecessors.  Ronchamp is deceptively modern such that it does not appear as a part of Corbusier’s aesthetic or even that of the International Style; rather it sits in the site as a sculptural object.  The inability to categorize Ronchamp has made it one of the most important religious buildings of the 20th Century, as well as Corbusier’s career.

© Gili Merin
© Gili Merin

In 1950, when Corbusier was commissioned to design Ronchamp, the church reformists wanted to clear their name of the decadence and ornamental past by embracing modern art and architecture.  Spatial purity was one of Corbusier’s main focuses by not over complicating the program and removing the typical modern aesthetic from the design.

© Gili Merin
© Gili Merin

Instead, Corbusier wanted the space to be meditative and reflective in purpose.  The stark white walls add to this purist mentality that when the light enters into the chapel there becomes this washed out, ethereal atmosphere.  The effect of the light evokes expressive and emotional qualities that create heightened sensations in tune with the religious activities.

© Gili Merin
© Gili Merin

Ronchamp sits among a wooded terrain secluded from the rest of the commune; the chapel is placed atop a hill on the site setting itself on a metaphorical pedestal giving Ronchamp added importance.  Unlike most of Corbusier’s other works consisting of boxy, functional, and sterile volumes, Ronchamp is more of an irregular sculptural form where the walls, the roof, and the floor slope.  Stylistically and formally it is fairly complex; however, programmatically it is relatively simple: two entrances, an altar, and three chapels.

© Gili Merin
© Gili Merin

The walls of Ronchamp give the building its sculptural character. The thick (4’-12’ thick), gentle curving walls act as a practical method of supporting the concrete and masonry construction, as well as the massive curvilinear roof.  However, the walls do not solely act as structural and sculptural elements; they also act as acoustic amplifiers, especially in the case of the eastern exterior wall that reflects the sound out over the field from the outdoor altar.

© Rory Hyde
© Rory Hyde

The most striking part of Ronchamp is the curved roof that peels up towards the heavens.  The curving roof appears to float above the building as it is supported by embedded columns in the walls, which creates a 10 cm gap between the roof and the walls, which allow for a sliver of clerestory light.  The roof is actually the only glimpse of mechanized influence in the overall design of Ronchamp; the roof’s curvature mimics the curves of an airplane wing.  It’s aerodynamic in design and in all of its massive and heavy qualities it still appears weightless.

© Flickr User: elyullo
© Flickr User: elyullo

One of the most interesting aspects of the design is the sporadic window placement on the walls. Corbusier implemented small puncturing apertures on the façade that amplified the light within the chapel by tapering the window well in the wall cavity.  Each wall becomes illuminated by these differing window frames, which in conjunction with the stark white washed walls gives the walls luminous qualities punctuated by a more intense direct light. On the wall behind the altar in the chapel, the lighting effects create a speckled pattern, almost like a starry night, of sparse openings that are complimented by a larger opening above the cross that emits a flood of light, creating a powerful religious image as well as a transformative experience.

plan
plan

From the field below Ronchamp, the curving walls and roof are what define the chapel formally. It appears as if it is growing directly from the hill itself as the curve of the roof seems to be a mirror of the curve that the chapel sits on. However once inside, the curving walls and roof no longer define the pure essence of the project, rather the light is what defines and gives meaning to the chapel experientially.

section
section

Even though, Ronchamp was a radical derivation from Le Corbusier’s other works, it still maintains some of the same principles of purity, openness, and communal sense of coming together.  Ronchamp was less of a move away from the mechanistic, International Style, as it was more of a contextual response to a religious site.  Ronchamp is an architecture rooted in context that’s based on modern principles, which makes Ronchamp one of the most interesting buildings of the 20th Century and of Le Corbusier’s career.

elevation
elevation
Location to be used only as a reference. It could indicate city/country but not exact address. Cite: Andrew Kroll. "AD Classics: Ronchamp / Le Corbusier" 03 Nov 2010. ArchDaily. Accessed . <http://www.archdaily.com/84988/ad-classics-ronchamp-le-corbusier/>
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47 Comments

BG · May 13, 2016

this building continues to inspire me. If you are an architect and cant appreciate this masterpiece I just don't know what to tell you

Niranjan · February 22, 2015
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syukri rahman · March 22, 2013

get the light with sustainable way.. without electrical E.. at d same time it look like scuptural installation

jaml · October 31, 2012

aw god its horrible

Shashior · April 18, 2012

AD Classics: Ronchamp / Le Corbusier | ArchDaily http://t.co/CgRqkgkv ?? @archdaily

Jordi Noguera · April 05, 2012

AD Classics: Ronchamp / Le Corbusier http://t.co/WKUtlNRm vía @archdaily

Graham Cowen · November 05, 2011

Notre Dame du Ronchamp - one of Le Corb&#39s most radical designs. http://t.co/nCOEYF7O @plethoraapp

Colby Pieper · October 14, 2011

certainly like your website but you need to take a look at the spelling on quite a few of your posts. Several of them are rife with spelling issues and I in finding it very troublesome to inform the reality then again I’ll certainly come again again.

Architectourism · September 17, 2011

Ronchamp / Le Corbusier A classic of Modernism http://t.co/zFtAwgGr #architecture

MARCILIO avelino · September 16, 2011

#aRQ ... Ronchamp / Le Corbusier ... http://t.co/RBglbO0Y

Daniela Marmol · November 10, 2010

AD Classics: Ronchamp / Le Corbusier | ArchDaily http://t.co/rUbwjp5 via @archdaily

James · November 06, 2010

AD Classics: Ronchamp / Le Corbusier http://bit.ly/9O3apq ArchDaily

cornel · November 05, 2010

Anon ( http://www.google.gr/images?q=... this is a master pieces to, but is something else man...

Knut Eric Wingsch · November 05, 2010

AD Classics: Ronchamp, Haute-Saone, France / Le Corbusier http://fb.me/KP7SAPFO

Fabrica3 · November 05, 2010

Clássicos da Arquitetura: igreja de Le Corbusier. http://archdai.ly/97f3TK. #arquitetuta

munter roe · November 04, 2010

nothing new under the sun

AFreund · November 05, 2010 01:19 AM

From the ext it looks the same, but in the cliff monastary's case, the effect and use is nothing close to that of Corb's chapel! You MUST look at all the aspects of the window's use ("pattern" on INSIDE as well as out, as well as experienced as a sum of windows from INSIDE and out) and how that would effect the experience.

With all due respect, BAD COMPARISON.

munter roe · November 04, 2010

Yes anon, that the church he copied.

I equate this to the tricks that magicians played in the past, in that the magicians were only using knowledge (i.e. science) that the masses had no knowledge.

Take for example, Goulding House by Scott Tallon Walker here in sunny old ireland. They copied straight off a mies design and received the plaudits.

Nowadays its not so easy!

Atika Concept · November 04, 2010

Al sur de París se encuentra uno de los proyectos más inusuales de Le Corbusier: Notre Dame du Ronchamp http://ow.ly/34myv

KOMIYAMA Lab. A.P.U. · November 04, 2010

RT @Architektourist: Ronchamp von Le Corbusier - ein wunderbarer Klassiker http://ow.ly/34iq0

Architektourist · November 04, 2010

Ronchamp von Le Corbusier - ein wunderbarer Klassiker http://ow.ly/34iq0

Ramon R Taetz · November 04, 2010
Prva Arhi Brigada · November 04, 2010

one of the most important religious buildings of the 20th Century / AD Classics: Ronchamp / Le Corbusier/ 1954 http://goo.gl/2OyjE

Andy Marshall · November 04, 2010

AD Classics: Ronchamp / Le Corbusier http://pulsene.ws/eYuD #architecture #culture

ersoy alap · November 04, 2010

LeCorbusier fark?!!! http://www.archdaily.com/84988...

munter roe · November 04, 2010

Large amount of this is a copy of a church in the mediterranean. Only difference is that the church he copied is set into a cliff face. Windows are identical

tmnl · November 11, 2010 05:01 AM

Yes, they are virtually identical: Both white plastered churches with windows that seem to be randomly placed.... Clearly you completely understood the essence of Le Corbusier's church.

abarker · November 04, 2010 05:49 PM

would you mind posting a link to a photo of that church?

?? · November 04, 2010

RT @archdaily: AD Classics: Ronchamp / Le Corbusier http://archdai.ly/97f3TK #architecture

Glenn Garriock · November 04, 2010

? Ronchamp / Le Corbusier – http://t.co/Z88nuqF /via @archdaily

up_today_arch · November 04, 2010

Yes, I agree... every contemporary architectural solution originated from this... even Zumtor, Hadid, SANAA...

TO-FU · November 04, 2010

????????????????????????????????????AD Classics: Ronchamp / Le Corbusier http://bit.ly/bror9i

Bruno Perdigão · November 04, 2010

O dia que o mestre se libertou das amarras que ele mesmo criou: http://migre.me/1YkbE

Jorge Morales · November 04, 2010

RT @RaulFregosoN: Para que vean que la iglesia que esta enfrente de Perisur no tiene nada de original. Ronchamp / Le Corbusier http://t.co/gJOgU6K

Raul Fregoso · November 04, 2010

Para que vean que la iglesia que esta enfrente de Perisur no tiene nada de original. Ronchamp / Le Corbusier http://t.co/gJOgU6K

FUGUO · November 04, 2010

???Ronchamp???? RT AD Classics: Ronchamp / Le Corbusier http://is.gd/gGX0L

Peter Mitev · November 04, 2010

AD Classics: Ronchamp / Le Corbusier | ArchDaily http://t.co/36IhYS3 via @archdaily

ARCODOMINICANA · November 04, 2010

RT @myungseopkim: Masterpiece of Genius!!! RT @ArchDaily: AD Classics: Ronchamp / Le Corbusier http://archdai.ly/97f3TK #architecture

myung seop kim · November 04, 2010

Masterpiece of Genius!!! RT @ArchDaily: AD Classics: Ronchamp / Le Corbusier http://archdai.ly/97f3TK #architecture

A Style MASTER · November 04, 2010

AD Classics: Ronchamp / Le Corbusier | ArchDaily http://t.co/l1xRuwI via @archdaily

Barry Maguire · November 04, 2010

AD Classics: Ronchamp / Le Corbusier via ArchDaily - © Cara Hyde-Basso In the commune of Ronchamp, ... http://tinyurl.com/25vwnm2

Vincent Beneche · November 04, 2010

RT @archdaily: AD Classics: Ronchamp / Le Corbusier http://archdai.ly/97f3TK #architecture #autoRT

dominique · November 04, 2010

RT @archdaily: AD Classics: Ronchamp / Le Corbusier http://archdai.ly/97f3TK #architecture

Polly Sjobon · November 04, 2010

O ArchDaily com essa série de clássicos me faz tão feliz! RT @ArchDaily AD Classics: Ronchamp / Le Corbusier http://archdai.ly/97f3TK

Daniel Cornuz · November 04, 2010

RT @ArchDaily: AD Classics: Ronchamp / Le Corbusier http://archdai.ly/97f3TK #architecture

Tom · November 04, 2010

Am I the only person who's never been a fan of this building?

CanYou · November 04, 2010 07:40 PM

you're not alone =))

pero · November 04, 2010 12:39 PM

yes u r:) how u could not like it? it's so fresh even in 2010. wish to see it in person

Joe Sun · November 04, 2010

Wonderful curve.

Caius · November 04, 2010

Bomb it.

fokt · November 04, 2010

Two corrections: I was just there yesterday. It's actually a four hour drive from Paris without traffic, not "slightly south of east" of Paris. And it's called Notre Dame du Haut.

freud · November 04, 2010 12:42 PM

Indeed, it's 400 km away from Paris, close to the Swiss border and Basel. I know Europe is small comparing to the rest of the world, but it's not thát small...

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