The rise and fall of the “Unité d’Habitation” – 5/7

Promoted as a standard, easy-to-build product, The Unité d’Habitation concept spread all over the world after WWII. The first 5 units (Marseille, Firminy, Rezé, Briey and Berlin) built by Le Corbusier himself became the standard for almost all public housing project between 1950 and 1990.

The more the model was spread along the world, the more it changed from the original concept. Most examples use a simplified version, colloquially known as Panelák or Plattenbau. From the original Unité, the Panelák kept:

  • The concept of building as indipendent, serial units floating over a green landscape
  • the absence of decorations
  • flat roof (even though they were no longer used as public spaces)
  • large windows and balconies.

On the other side, some features were discarded:

  • buildings suspended over pillars
  • multi-functional buildings (commerces and services were put aside, in small, low-rise buildings)

800px-gdansk_falowiec_na_obroncow_wybrzeza

Gdańsk, Falowiek, 1970. 11 storey, 850 m long, 6000 inhabitants (image: wikimedia commons).

panelaky_kosik

An example of Panelák in Prague (image: wikimedia commons).

28fe

tower-shaped Panelák in Prague (image: wikipedia).

800px-2005_08_05_gdansk_00

Gdańsk, typical windows pattern on a Panelák (image: wikipedia).

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