17 places of the architect Le Corbusier’s modern mind have just been inscribed on world heritage UNESCO. I didn’t know it when I drew one of them the day before: De la Tourette convent

At the end of our way up-hill, we walk along a oak trees path hiding the massive concrete structure. It appears in all of a sudden, huge and mineral. We first see the church: a closed scheming block.

Le Corbusier was invited by the Dominicans in the 50’s to build a school for the brothers. He spent a lot of time with them to understand their daily life, their faith, their life path.

 

The convent’s architecture meets their needs in three points: line, rigour and light.

The line of action for those who live in a religious community is organised around a cloister. Tradition wants around this “square” the church, the chapter (“townhall”), the library (and here a school), cells (individual room with bed and table) and public rooms. The structure here is the same.

Rigor is in the mineral aspect of concrete, and the codified size modulor, 1,83 m high, 2,26 m high when arm up. The convent is totally human sized. If you step by, you can see this ideal size in the entrance door’s concrete square.

Finally the light is rythmic thanks to the church facing Jerusalem. The sun dances with the building from dawn to sunset, contrasting volumes. Rays enter through different-sized windows. They draw waving Mondrian squares on the walls.
The big rooms such as the refectory show eating-landscapes bay-windows, contemplation spots. Finally the church and crypt don’t have any window. Smart colourful light shafts make you feel like meditate.

 

I drew the convent right where Le Corbusier realised his first sketch during spring 1953.

That’s when he decided where it would take place. He thought at this time that the building trim would be on top of it as the floor is so sloping. The stilts would balance it and extend the horizon. Actually today, when you are on the roof, you embrace the sky.

 

Loving or not Le Corbusier’s architecture, that is the question.

Well we have here an interesting holy and human work. The Dominican brothers made a welcoming place out of the spiritual convent. First the hôtellerie is a way for everybody to live in this work of art. Then contemporanean art exhibitions totally find their place inside these walls. Finally, the concrete do reflect nature around… Grey is not exactly grey.

 

What do you prefer? Here is an example of traditionnal architecture which looks like the still visible La Tourette castle.

Couvent de la Tourette - Arboretum