5 Points of Modern Architecture

The famous concept of Le Corbusier the “5 Points of Modern Architecture” are tought in architecture schools throughout the world. It is the list of the essentials that the architect regarded modern houses must have to provide their inhabitants with healthy conditions.

Critical look at the points, compared to the historicism in architecture at that time will inevitably bring us to the conclusion, that Le Corbusier made it. The access to vast amounts of light and air, as well as sterility and ergonomy of his designs were the cornerstone of modernism.

The points are:

  1. pilotis
  2. roof garden
  3. free facade
  4. free plan
  5. horizontal windows

1. Pilotis are the constructial method of erecting buildings. The invention of reinforced concrete frame enabled building in a simple method of supports and slabs.

Le Corbusier had penchant for organizing pilotis in a grid, what added order to the buildings. The architect was under a deep impression of classic architecture, especially Parthenon and villa Rotonda. The grid was a mean to bring this classic qualities to his modern designs.

The impression Pathenon made on the young Le Corbusier was profound and life-lasting what especially accentuates Nicholas Fox Weber during his lecture on the archtiect’s life.


2. Roof Gardens were a mean of bringing nature to houses. Le Corbusier was inspired by steamliners, which superstructure lifted high above the ground level provided clear views over the site. In the same way Le Corbusier opened roof of his building on these views, simultaneously arranging an arcadian atmosphere on them.

3. Free facade was a consequence of concrete frame construction. Because walls were then deprived of their constructional role, their design became free as well.

4. Free plan was the consequence of the construction as well. The plan is no longer limited by construction and its design becomes free also.

In effect, many important figures of modernism movement came up with idea of ‘open plan‘ (Frank Lloyd Wright) or continuity of space (Mies van der Rohe), which assumed that archtiecture at its best doesn’t devide space utterly, but rather allows space to flow among different abstract compositions of volumes and planes.

Le Corbusier called this idea ‘promenade architecturale‘ and an important feature of this concept was building alongside staircase, a ramp. After all, he claimed that the ramp is something that links the floors, while staircase divides it.

5. Horizontal windows or ribbon windows are the effect of free facade. It’s an imporant element of Le Corbusier crusade toward liberating people from the evil historism.

First of all, they give access to a big amounts of light, which can evenly lit the interior.

Secondly it also effectively frames the view outside, bringing outside inside.

Coming up to the points was something Le Corbusier worked on throughout all 1920s. He built next and next villas for rich clients from artistic circles eager to invest their money in the sake of progress and to possess a house they could show off before their firends. Ozenfant Atelier in 1922, villa La Roche-Jeanneret in 1923, villa Le Lac in 1924 were all experiments of putting Le Corbusier ideas into practice.

The culmination and the realization closest to perfection turned out to be villa Savoye, which today is regarded as the architect masterpiece. It is the first villa which lifted the whole volume to the air. Moreover, although the atmosphere inside may seem cold, it is a type of ‘mathematical lyricism’ that Le Corbusier sought, which he could only acheive through total use of the Five Points of Modern Architecture.

Richard Weston,’Key Buildings of the 20th Century’
Le Corbusier, ‘Toward an Architecture’
Nicholas Fox Weber, ‘Le Corbusier: A Life’ [lecture at UCD School of Architecture on the book’s substance]

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