I visited Pavillon Le Corbusier in June. It was just reopened to the public (on the 11th May) after the reconstruction work.
Swiss architects Silvio Schmed and Arthur Rüegg were hired by the city of Zurich and the Museum with the scope to restore the Pavillion. They protected as much as possible of the Pavillion and its original. After complicated construction works, the building was ready for its primary function: a museum dedicated to the work of Le Corbusier.
Now the museum has a status Cultural heritage of national importance (listed in the Swiss inventory of the cultural property of national and regional significance as a Class A object of national importance).
The building is located on the Zürichsee lakeshore nearby Zürichhorn in the Seefeld quarter.
Pavilion is hidden behind greenery and those who go down the street Bellerivestrasse,are often unaware that pass right next to this pearl of architecture. The Museum is easily accessible for those who decide to visit it ( by car, trams, bus or boats ).
Two villas: Villa Egli and beautiful villa called the Museum Bellerive contrast architecture Pavillion Le Corbusier. Its colorful facades reminiscent of Piet Mondrian’s painting in space (Composition II in Red, Blue, and Yellow, 1930, Piet Mondrian, but with different colors).
5 Reasons why you should visit The Pavillon Le Corbusier
1. The story about Le Corbusier and his work
The Pavillon Le Corbusier is an art museum dedicated to the work of the Swiss-French architect Le Corbusier. The Pavillon itself and its exhibitions (permanent and temporary ..) tell the story about Corbusier’s life and work.
The Museum was designed by Le Corbusier and was his last construction.
The whole story started by reason Heidi Weber, a Swiss art collector and patron, had the vision to establish a museum, created by the architect himself, designed as an exhibition space for his art. In 1960 Le Corbusier was appointed to design this public exhibition building. One year later, the first drawings for a building with the concrete structure were presented but in 1962 the concept was changed to a steel version. This was Le Corbusier’s only building made of steel and glass. Unfortunately, Le Corbusier died in 1965 two years before the completion of the museum.
The Centre Le Corbusier was officially inaugurated on 15 July 1967.
On 13 May 2014 the Pavillon Le Corbusier became the property of the City of Zurich and since 2019, is operated by the Museum für Gestaltung Zürich on behalf of the owner.
2. The story about Corbusier’s vision
Le Corbusier’s creative work includes diverse professional activities. He was an architect, urban planner, architectural theorist, furniture designer then painter, sculptor and draftsman.
As a man of many interests, Corbusier’s vision for this museum was to achieve a ‘synthesis of the arts’ which present all his creative activities.
He designed not only the building but every detail of the building (to door handle). The architecture, landscape and it’s interior, furniture designs, exhibited sculptures, paintings, and his writings represent the organic unity of his work and vision.
A unique "architectural promenade" enables visitors to discover the Pavilion depending on their interest: to enjoy architecture, investigate architectural details, try furniture (chairs or chaise longue), investigate a small kitchen at the ground floor or enjoy on the terrace…
This way the visitors have an active role in this exhibition space and connect different creative disciplines with life.
3. The story about modern architecture
Le Corbusier is one of the pioneers of what is now called modern architecture. He applied many of principles he defined in his writings, in the Pavillon design (Five Points of Architecture he defined 1927 with his cousin, Pierre Jeanneret as a co-author: Les cinq points de l'architecture moderne). At the time Le Corbusier made a radical change in the architecture with his ideas and design solution.
The building has two floors – five single-storied and one double-storied room. The Pavillon consists of the central core (composed of the cubes 2.26 x 2.26 metres) and structurally independent roof ( two square parts of 12 x 12 metres). The total ground surface of the building measures 12 x 26.3 metres, comprising of welded metal sheets and having a weight of 40 tons.
Structure: In this case, Le Corbusier used steel construction (apart from the base, ramp and free-standing staircase) instead to initially plane reinforced concrete. The reason is the unusual form of the building and large, 'free-floating' roof, which ‘protect’ the house from the rain and the sun. Throughout his career, Le Corbusier rarely used steel as a structural material.
Structure design solution enables free plan as there are no load-bearing walls (replaced by a steel structure) so that the interior can be freely designed.
Modularity: The building’s steel structure is based on the Modulor system of proportions (anthropometric scale 2.26m= the overall height of a man with a raised arm).
Prefabrication: Le Corbusier made intensive use of prefabricated steel elements assembled on-site and combined with multi-colored enameled plates fitted to the central core.
The roof was put in first to shelter the rest of the construction process. It was prefabricated in the biggest possible units off-site, then assembled on the ground on site. The two finally welded parts of the roof were then craned into place (final height 9 metres) and fixed on the pillars.
The modular steel frames of the central core were assembled on the site, protected by the already placed roof. Walls, windows, ceilings and floors were then screwed onto the steel frame. The walls consist of enamel-coated steel plates (1.13 metres x 2.26 metres).
Finally, the entire building complex was placed on a concrete ground floor. When constructing the building complex, more than 20,000 bolts were used.
The design of the building enabled this construction technology.
The Free Façade is one of Le Corbusier’s architectural principles and the basis for his designs. Since the Pavillon is supported by steel construction, the façade is much lighter and more open. The final finishing of the façade are multicolor enamel-coated steel plates. The glazed panels are with neoprene seals. The colors used were Le Corbusier’s preferred: white, black, red, green and yellow. The colors are highlighted with the dark color of the structure which is a framework for the panels. The placing of these enamel panels was planned according to a rhythmic system.
The dimension of the glass windows is also based on a modular scale of proportions and ran from floor-to-ceiling. This facade solution was enabled with structural design (walls do not support the house).
The Roof Terrace: Above the second floor of the central core Le Corbusier designed a flat roof, which is used as a terrace. Here he used the same colors as on façade: white, green, red …The curving metal benches enable enjoying in the view and in the building itself.
Interior: In the interior exist a balance between used materials. The interior panels are with a wood veneer. The contrast to the wood is sculptural concrete staircases or red tube of the hood.
This modernist pavilion with attractive form composition and interesting façade in delightful colors confirm that principles Le Corbusier defined in theory are possible in reality. It is the best example of modern Architecture and his signpost for future architecture.
4. Details from Corbusier’s biography
The Pavillon Le Corbusier hosts one temporary exhibition a year to commemorate the work of this important architect. The first exhibition in the newly renovated Pavillon “Mon univers” present Le Corbusier’s World of Objects.
The exhibition brings together originals from Le Corbusier’s private collection, historical photographs, casts and paintings as well as found natural objects and places them in a visual and content-related dialogue.
Conch shells, ceramics from the Balkans, flotsam and industrial glass, reflect Le Corbusier century’s passion for collecting, in a display providing insight into his creative cosmos. Throughout his life, Le Corbusier pursued the vision of a synthesis of the arts and brought together objects and trouvailles from art, industry, folklore and nature in his assemblages. These served his various artistic practices both as points of reference and as sources of inspiration.
“Mon universe presents Le Corbusier in a very personal way: The beautiful little things he collected for himself are full of stories and emotions. A pebble or a piece of bark thus becomes an ‘objet à réaction poetique.’ The exhibition encourages visitors to discover their own objects.”
The visitors also can enjoy a small permanent exhibition Le Corbusier – Seen by René Burri. The 17 original photographs by René Burri reflects Burri’s view — of both Le Corbusier’s work and person.
5. For future architects
The museum offers special programs for school classes and young children. The learning and experimentation platform will be useful for children’s creativity or familiarity with the work of the great architect will be stimulating for ones consider becoming architects themselves.
The Pavillion Le Corbusier is currently used for temporary exhibitions, educational activities and special events.
I warmly recommend all visited Zurich to visit Pavillion Le Corbusier.
Photo by MMS: Photo by Milica Miletic Serbedzija