The architectural Mechanism of Le Corbusier

“Open your eyes! We eat in a small restaurant of coachmen in the center of Paris; in the background are the bar and the kitchen, a mezzanine cut into two the room height, its anterior part faces the street. One fine day this is discovered and are seen the tests that facilitates entire an architectural mechanism that may correspond to the organization of human habitation “.

Le Corbusier et Pierre Jeanneret: “Oeuvre Complète”, Tome 1, 1910-1929.


The formative period of Le Corbusier elapses in his researches almost an obsession of generic elements which develop the concepts of a new architecture. In their eagerness by capture through drawing everything, dedicate their learning trips to systematic representation of ancient buildings, as an exercise that rescues the principles of structuring of the classic architecture and build their ideal of values.

Each note is a new concept, a character, the conception of a new idea, an example of whatever represents in your architectural inquiry which can be read in the writings to the edge of the drawings performed at the visit of the Charterhouse of Ema: “Cell of a brother in the Charterhouse of Ema. We apply admirably to the workers’ houses being the body of accommodation completely independent “ (Ch. E. Jeanneret, Le Voyage d’Orient, Paris, 1966).

In its course by the studies was nurturing of new knowledge following experiences: he discovered the secrets of the concrete in the study of Auguste Perret and conceived mechanization as impeller of a new culture in the studio of Peter Behrens, culture admired by visiting the production of companies on his trip to Germany.

Le Corbusier concludes that the architecture of the early years of the twentieth century are not to the height of the technical progresses achieved in the same period, and replicate this knowledge, with the aid of Max Dubois, in the development of the Dom-ino system, a design thought to series production, that synthesizes the order he discovered in classical architecture.


This may be considered the starting point of a compendium of guiding criteria that apply in the conception of their designs, based on the geometry as a means of expressing the purity, primaries forms that give universal to architecture, precision and mathematical order and standardized construction elements. These rigid concepts are amalgamated with plastic criteria derived from his pictorial activity, to result a combination that makes of its architecture unique and unrepeatable.

In those years happens the fact narrated at the start of the article, product of a conversation which maintained with a group of collaborators over lunch in a cafe in Paris. The story synthesizes how easily the capacity of observation of Le Corbusier detonates his ideas.

The main lounge bar was parceled by its height regarding the service activities divided by a mezzanine; Le Corbusier defines that dispute as an “architectural mechanism” that perfectly may be applied to housing. Materializes thus other guiding principle for his work, a generic element that “machining” space and transforms it a serial element, constitutive the set of elements that give form to the architecture.

The architectural mechanism thus defined, becomes in a constant systematically used in the design of his villas, to point which could be considered as another of the “certainties” not included in the famous “five points”. In the conception of double space as an articulating element, Le Corbusier defined spatial hierarchies, of man’s home.


The story of the Parisian café tops the presentation of the first version of the House Citrohan in the first volume of the Complete Works, a fact that transforms the mechanism conceived in a manifesto. In this first application the double space is the soul of the house Citrohan, it articulates the scale of the city with the dwelling and generates a dynamic visual perception of interior space, both horizontally or vertically, never used in houses of this scale before.

From this work, the mechanism starts to structure the architecture of his home designs. Used transversely in housing in the various variants of houses Citrohan, as longitudinal articulating space in the social area of ​​the Villa Cook, to differentiate a sector of the social area in the House Curutchet, as a link with the outside world in the Villa Stein, stratified alternately in the village Shodan, highlighting workplace in the atelier Ozenfant or in La Petite Maison d’Artistes in Boulogne, defining the space for exhibitions at the Maison La Roche, or becoming a defined element in the Unite d’Habitation.

This concept of space as a mechanical element is own of Le Corbusier and may relocate to other criteria applied in his work, but in any case, must be understood as part of a frenzied exploration to determine the truth of the architecture.


This constant exploration vanguard became all the work of Le Corbusier. Unlike many contemporary masters, Le Corbusier never wavered in the research of the universality of his architecture, revamping its formal repertoire, optimizing its conception space, altering the texture and the color in the use of component materials, but always taking the man as the sole aim of any realization.

Any drawing or writing of Le Corbusier is a learning project undertaking any work through a reinterpretation. His work always allows a new look, even in dissent. The work of Le Corbusier is a source of spatial concepts, formally, theoretically or intuitively, requiring the permanent articulation between ideas and concepts, and waking a flow of architectural perceptions hardly comparable to other works.

Credit Photo: Olivier Martin-Gambier/ FLC – ADAGP

by Marcelo Gardinetti


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