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  7. AD Classics: Convent of La Tourette / Le Corbuiser

AD Classics: Convent of La Tourette / Le Corbuiser

AD Classics: Convent of La Tourette / Le Corbuiser
AD Classics: Convent of La Tourette / Le Corbuiser, © Fernando Schapo
© Fernando Schapo

The Convent of La Tourette is Le Corbusier's final building completed in Europe, and is also thought by many to be his most unique program. It was built to be a self-contained world for a community of silent monks, and to accommodate the unique and specific lifestyle of the monks, the monastery is made of one hundred individual cells, a communal library, a refectory, a rooftop cloister, a church, and classrooms.

© Fernando Schapo © Fernando Schapo © Fernando Schapo © Fernando Schapo +48

© Fernando Schapo
© Fernando Schapo

The one request to the architect by Father Marie-Alain Couturier was that he "create a silent dwelling for one hundred bodies and one hundred hearts."

The architecture of Le Corbusier is distinguishable for its five key elements, which are present in the late Modernist style of the Convent of La Tourette.

© Fernando Schapo
© Fernando Schapo

The more obvious of these in this specific project are the pilotis, or load-bearing columns, which line the inside walls and open the facade to long strip windows. The classic grass rooftops create an architectural promenade, relating back to the Villa Savoye, although the context of the convent is very different than of the residence.

© Fernando Schapo
© Fernando Schapo
© Fernando Schapo
© Fernando Schapo

The site was specifically chosen by Corbusier, as he was drawn to the steeply sloping bank with powerful views. Every one of the hundred cells features an outward-facing balcony, with communal areas underneath and the cloister running around the roof. The structural form of the building is reinforced concrete, with undulating glass surfaces located on three of the four exterior faces. 

© Samuel Ludwig
© Samuel Ludwig
© Samuel Ludwig
© Samuel Ludwig

Built as a Chapel, residence and place of learning for Dominican friars, the monastery groups around a central courtyard a U-shaped mass, and the court is closed off by the chapel at the end.

The intention of architect Le Corbusier was "to give the monks what men today need most: silence and peace... This Monastery does not show off; it is on the inside that it lives." Although this was ultimately achieved, there were still reservations about the size of some of the cells, as well as the soundproofing and acoustics. Maintenance issues are still very prevalent today, with cracking concrete, defective insulation, and dangerously installed electricity.

© Fernando Schapo
© Fernando Schapo
© Fernando Schapo
© Fernando Schapo
© Fernando Schapo
© Fernando Schapo

Much of the personality of this building is found in the interior, with the floor-to-ceiling glazing in the public areas, like the chapter room and refectory with their commanding west-facing views over the valley, library, and church entrance.

The uneven spacing of the vertical concrete mullions, or ondulatoires, and the similar divisions and uneven spacing of the horizontal components between them were fashioned according to the Modular system of proportions of Le Corbusier.

© Fernando Schapo
© Fernando Schapo

One of the best moments of the architectural promenade is the ramp down to the church entrance: an austere, concrete corridor with uneven yet rhythmic glazing, which leads to a stern metal wall that rotates to give access to the dark, colored glow to the rest of the church. 

The interior of the church reveals a concrete box which is given a spiritual essence through its use of natural light and strong color, both selectively and carefully placed. "Light cannons" are created as the five different types of openings around the church let in daylight, several of which are graciously sculpted on the exterior. The colors are also present in these openings, which give the church a warm and evokative glow.

© Fernando Schapo
© Fernando Schapo

As of now, the monument has housed people for around forty years, welcoming visitors, architects, architecture lovers and students from all over the world. Today it functions as a meeting place for different disciplines connected to the human sciences and philosophy.

Update: this article has since been updated with photographs by Fernando Schapo.

© Fernando Schapo
© Fernando Schapo
Location to be used only as a reference. It could indicate city/country but not exact address. Cite: Eduardo Souza. "AD Classics: Convent of La Tourette / Le Corbuiser" 15 Dec 2010. ArchDaily. Accessed . <http://www.archdaily.com/96824/ad-classics-convent-of-la-tourette-le-corbuiser/>
Read comments

40 Comments

M. K. Hajdin · January 15, 2016

This is the ugliest building ever created. What an unimitigated eyesore.

Jordan Beck · December 09, 2014

The Sainte Marie de la Tourette is truly the definition of modern architcture. Corbusier hits each of the five points of modern architecture, in many ways this house is like a more complete version of the Dom-Ino house concept. The building looks alive in the interior at night and is representative of Le Corbusier's incredible focus on the interior of the building rather than the exterior. It is a building that must be experienced to fully understand.

marcelo f deabreu · April 04, 2012

great post -- but you should please correct the title, where the name of Le Corbusier appears as Le CorbuIser... I've it shared on Pinterest wrongly already! Mistakes spread so far on the internet! thank you.

Timotheus · December 30, 2010

En als toetje voor deze avondmaaltijd: zoals #LeCorbusier het bedoelde in #LaTourette http://bit.ly/ia9aLn

Virgil C. Robinson · December 25, 2010

AD Classics: Photos of the Convent of La Tourette by Le Corbuiser | ArchDaily: http://bit.ly/gQ5RgS #arcitecture #photos # lecorbuiser

Virgil C. Robinson · December 24, 2010

AD Classics: Convent of La Tourette / Le Corbuiser | ArchDaily: http://bit.ly/gQ5RgS

Alex Bozikovic · December 22, 2010

RT @PJGlassHouse: RT @greenmodernism: Fantastic photographs of The Convent of La Tourette by Le Corbusier http://fb.me/NBguUcaY #fb

Philip Johnson · December 22, 2010

RT @greenmodernism: Fantastic photographs of The Convent of La Tourette by Le Corbusier http://fb.me/NBguUcaY #fb

elemental · December 21, 2010

RT @greenmodernism: Fantastic photographs of The Convent of La Tourette by Le Corbusier http://fb.me/NBguUcaY #modernism #preservation

CitizenWald · December 21, 2010

RT @GreenModernism: Fantastic photographs of The Convent of La Tourette by Le Corbusier http://fb.me/NBguUcaY

Greening Modernism · December 21, 2010

Fantastic photographs of The Convent of La Tourette by Le Corbusier http://fb.me/NBguUcaY

bovolo · December 19, 2010

RT @ArchitoryApp: Wonderful photos of this Brutalist classic | Convent of La Tourette / Le Corbuiser | ArchDaily http://t.co/KvPQvaf via ...

ELS · December 19, 2010

RT @ArchitoryApp: Wonderful photos of this Brutalist classic | Convent of La Tourette / Le Corbuiser | ArchDaily http://t.co/KvPQvaf via ...

Richie · December 17, 2010

Great photos!

Andy Marshall · December 17, 2010

AD Classics: Convent of La Tourette / Le Corbuiser http://pulsene.ws/wLOA #architecture

Holcim Awards · December 17, 2010

I love this building. I really do. However, I can't help but think if it was built today, by any other architect, it would be universally hated. It is brutalist architecture at its finest. Only Corbu could pull it off.

http://on.fb.me/holcim-awards

Ted Lott · December 17, 2010

I weep with its beauty...RT @archdaily: AD Classics: Convent of La Tourette / Le Corbuiser http://archdai.ly/e7pQ0H #architecture

Matt Bernhardt · December 16, 2010

Check out these photos of Corb&#39s La Tourette in ArchDaily, courtesy of #knowlton student Sam Ludwig - http://bit.ly/i9kjxd

Magnus Strom · December 16, 2010

One of my favourites: AD Classics: Convent of La Tourette / Le Corbuiser | ArchDaily http://goo.gl/Jc5bn

The Big Black &amp; White Zebr · December 16, 2010

Indulge me... Not often I want to say this is my favourite, whatever, ever... how can one be so deliberate when one considers all the things in the world, all the buildings that have ever been built...
... but I want to say that this is my favourite building of all time, well favourite handful of buildings, of course Koenig's Case study is another... anyway, sublime...

tuttibubulonis · December 16, 2010

AD Classics: Convent of La Tourette / Le Corbuiser: ©Samuel Ludwig The Convent of La Tourette… http://goo.gl/fb/PV4Fn

ilaria defilippo · December 16, 2010

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Paul Joseph Blasco · December 16, 2010

RT @ArchDaily: AD Classics: Convent of La Tourette / Le Corbuiser http://archdai.ly/e7pQ0H #architecture

Elvis · December 16, 2010

AD Classics: Convent of La Tourette / Le Corbuiser http://is.gd/iPBck

jonathan lin · December 16, 2010

Archdaily showcases a classic, La Tourette http://bit.ly/fGDaqR with amazing night photos. was there with @puakim a few months back

Samuel T Ludwig · December 16, 2010

Oh hey! Look who gets to claim complete photographic authority on ArchDaily. Moi… http://bit.ly/eK7Y7h

Scott @ Cube Studio · December 16, 2010

AD Classics: Convent of La Tourette / Le Corbuiser | ArchDaily: The Convent of La Tourette i... http://bit.ly/hxDtWK www.cubestudio.info

Erik Joya · December 16, 2010

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DEZIGN · December 16, 2010

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Architecture+Molding · December 16, 2010

AD Classics: Convent of La Tourette / Le Corbuiser: The Convent of La Tourette is Le Corbusier’s final building ... http://bit.ly/fiiDpE

ArchitecturePassion · December 16, 2010

AD Classics: Convent of La Tourette / Le Corbuiser: ©Samuel LudwigThe Convent of La Tourette is Le Corbusi... http://tinyurl.com/2anrxgd

Barry Maguire · December 16, 2010

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Engy · December 16, 2010

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Vincent Beneche · December 16, 2010

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tuttibubulonis · December 16, 2010

AD Classics: Convent of La Tourette / Le Corbuiser: ©Samuel Ludwig The Convent of La Tourette… http://goo.gl/fb/GYnyY

sanggil kim · December 16, 2010

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Rajan Reddy · December 16, 2010

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GR2TF · December 16, 2010

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Hi-iD · December 16, 2010

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Bocetos Digitales · December 16, 2010

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···

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