In retrospect Le Corbusier’s high-rise utopian experiments appear both frightening and quaintly naive. Poor imitations of this modernist style of housing development have been much maligned pretty much everywhere, but here in Marseille visitors can experience the ‘machine for living’ as it was intended in one of the world’s most unique hotels.
Using a simple combination of elements and materials: space, air, light and concrete, Le Corbusier created a truly special atmosphere – why can’t they all be like this? While Le Corbusier hotel at La Cite Radieuse (Radiant City) is located further from the waterfront (and restaurant action) than most of the city’s accommodation options, for architecture buffs this is THE place to stay in Marseille.
Designed as a middle-class housing development La Cité Radieuse (Radiant City) houses around 1500 residents and features a shopping level (now reduced to a single bakery), hotel, kindergarten, church and outer-worldly roof top garden with wading pool.
Compared with contemporary hotels amenities at Hotel Le Corbusier may appear basic: 800 thread-count Egyptian linens, flat screen TVs and attentive staff are conspicuous by their absence. But who cares when your room has a Picasso on the wall and a Le Corbusier chaise longue (LC04) for napping?
Any minor gripes pale into insignificance – this is your chance to sleep with a design icon. (Personally, we prefer our 60 year olds to have with a few wrinkles over botox anyday! It’s called ‘patina’, right?)
What We Love
If you do stay here make sure you take a tour of one of the apartments; some residents open their homes for visitors in exchange for a small fee. The one we visited had Prouve and Perriand 50’s furniture alongside all the original Le Corbusier features. It’s amazing how cool and functional the flats were, and still are.
You could go all the way and actually stay in one of the apartments/Machines for living – as a couple of them are regularly available for rent through Airbnb. For example check the availability of the 120 euros duplex or the 90 euros duplex, both look nicely decorated.
If you don’t stay at Radiant City, at least pop in for an apero on the terrace or dinner at the restaurant, Le Ventre de l’Architecte.
And check out Ora-Ito’s newly opened art gallery, MAMO, established in the old gym on the Cite’s rooftop, which the young French designer carefully renovated following Le Corbusier’s original plans. The gallery is opened from 11am to 6pm Wed-Sunday, the roster of contemporary art exhibitions looks promising and the view is stunning.
Another advantage of staying here is its proximity to the calanques, a cab ride to the entry of the national park will cost about €20. Public buses and the metro system yes will take you into the city but factor in taxi fares to get you home after a night out.
In keeping with the design ethos, rates are reasonable and rooms accommodate a wide variety of needs and budgets. Our tip is to book a room with a sea view not too close to the restaurant – unless want to be woken by early breakfasters on the terrace.
Are you a Le Corbusier tragic? Check out the review of our visit to Le Corb’s Weekender: Villa Savoye, near Paris.
280 Boulevard Michelet
+33 4 91 16 78 00
Not a lullaby this time, but a little film we made about our experience at the Madman’s House… where everything is not as it seems… [Apologies for the non-perfect sound, optimists that we are, we thought we could get away with not using a mike!]