A Machine for Living In

In a world of new technologies and conveniences, architects thrive to design buildings and homes that are thrilling and full of imagination and artistry. We no longer build to connect the human to God but more to the humans’ ability to push boundaries.


Le Corbusier, also known as Corbu, is one of the most influential architects of the 20th century. He is credited for bringing architecture into the technological age. His most famous dictum was “a house is a machine for living in.” Corbu believed that new architecture was machine-like in many ways: the machine-like materials used and methods of construction, the machine-like efficiency, its serving physical and psychological needs, and the resemblance to machinery. He believed homes and buildings were to be as beautiful and efficient as the best new machinery.7

The early work of Corbu was closely related to nature, but his ideas evolved to follow the new technological advancements in architecture. He trademarked his “five points of new architecture” which is his idea of how modern design should include. The Villa Savoye in Poissy, Paris he designed in 1929 was first home he designed using following the five points.6

The Villa Savoye, Poissy, Paris
The Villa Savoye, Poissy, Paris

1) The elimination of the ground story elevated by pillars, “pilotis,” which are freestanding columns;

2) A flat roof, used as a garden terrace or enabling more manipulation to the body of the building;

3) An open floor plan by eliminating non-supporting wall partitions and having pillars become an aesthetic feature;

4) The look of freestanding glass facades “curtain walls;”

5) “Ribbon windows” are structural concrete being used as a mechanism of heating/cooling and a sunscreen to control natural lighting.6

His later work uses these same points in larger buildings and multi-unit housing. Corbu’s “five points” have inspired architecture we know now and taking full advantage and pushing boundaries of new technologies.

A House on Pillars, Hungary

In Hungary, “A House on Pillars” designed by Allhitecture in 2009 uses Point One. This house is nested in a forest and the pillars are meant to not only mimic the tree trunks surrounding, but to also reduce the amount of footprint on the forest ground.2

In Singapore, “Sky Garden House” designed by Guz Architects in 2010 uses Point Two. Space was limited in this town.

Sky Garden House, Singapore

The homes are smaller and close together. This home is multi-leveled using green roof to create a feel of terrain for the sides which had neighbors. The home was closed off with solid wall of grass for privacy. The multiple rooflines provided a base for the story above and allowed each level to feel like its own dwelling.3

In New York City, “White Street Lofts”, by Andrew Berman in 2009 uses Point Three. The idea for these lofts was to have as much open shared space in the loft and maximizing daylight from the north and south. By exposing columns in the space, this was achieved while at the same time having private areas to retreat.1

White Street Lofts, New York City

In Austrailia, “Kay House” by Maria Gigney Architects in 2002 uses Point Four. The glass and steel home was designed to play with the juxtaposition of the lakeside property it resides on and the view of city behind it. Corbu’s fourth point claims the “look” of freestanding glass. This home was able to cover the entire façade and roofline in glass.9

Kay House, Australia

In Maryland, USA, the “Louver House” by Ziger/Snead in 2010 uses Point Five. This home is considered a “super insulated structure.” The architects wanted to play with the potential connections between energy efficiency and great design. This wooden louver “skin” creates a moisture barrier and protects the building from UV rays while flooding the home with natural sunlight.8

What mattered to Corbu was not the function or structure but the potential in design for space and volume by taking advantage of new technology. He created well accomplished and respected buildings and became one the pioneers and major influences of modern architecture we know now.7

Louver House, Long Island

1 Andrew Berman Architect. http://www.andrewbermanarchitect.com/projects/kaye_loft

2 Arch Daily, 2008-2013. July 15, 2012. http://www.archdaily.com/253411/summer-house-on-pillars-allhitecture/

3 Arch Daily, 2008-2013. February 22, 2011. http://www.archdaily.com/112766/sky-garden-house-guz-architects/

4 Artifice, Inc, 1994-2012. http://www.greatbuildings.com/architects/Le_Corbusier.html

5 Design Within Reach, 2013. http://www.dwr.com/category/designers/h-l/le-corbusier.do

6 Glancey, Jonathan. “The Story of Architecture.” Dorling Kindersley Limited, London, 2000. Pages 182-183.

7 Trachtenberg, Marvin. “Architecture.” Prentice Hall, Inc, New York, 2003. Pages 500-503.

8 Ziger/Snead Architects. http://www.zigersnead.com/current/blog/category/architecture/

9 http://www.homedsgn.com/2011/12/30/kay-house-by-maria-gigney-architects/

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