Essential Architecture-  Paris

Pavillon Suisse


Le Corbusier


7K Boulevard Jourdan, Cité Universitaire, 14th.






concrete, glass, etc.


Apartment Building
The Pavillon Suisse or Swiss pavilion was built in 1930 at the Cité International Universitaire, Paris.

The construction of this Pavilion was entrusted, without a competition, by the Committee of Swiss Universities to Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret who at first refused to be charged with this commission. The manner in which their cause was handled by the Swiss federal authorities and the majority of Swiss public opinion at the time of the League of Nations Competition still lay heavy on their hearts. Nevertheless, at the insistence of the Swiss universities, they threw themselves into the work and built the pavilion with a budget reputed by the president of the Cité Universitaire to be only half-sufficient (3,000,000.00 fr.)

The construction of building, created under exceptionally difficult circumstances, provided the occasion for constituting a veritable laboratory of modern architecture: the most urgent were tackled, in particular, dry-wall construction and acoustic separation.

The most famous architect of the 20th-century, Le Corbusier completed not even 60 buildings in his lifetime. But he continues to inspire both worship and loathing around the globe. Swiss by birth, Corbu is the man who coined the term “a machine for living”—which is what he expected from a successful house. He believed that mathematics contained an ideal formula for living, and the Swiss Pavilion is a magnificent example of Corbu working at the height of his power. The 30s saw Corbu formulate many of his most influential theories; his most exciting writings on art, architecture, and urban planning appeared during this period. Here, Corbu worked in collaboration with his cousin Pierre Jeanneret to create a perfect expression of his theory of four ruling elements: sky, trees, concrete and steel. His trademark brutalist materials and his love for rooftop greenery are both beautifully in evidence here. In later buildings, Corbu expanded on these concepts, but the Swiss Pavilion remains one of the most livable residential blocks the master every completed. The dormitory is an elegant, low-rise version of Corbu’s vision of high-density habitation. He dreamed of a city where streets were ignored, parks were essential, and huge high-rises boasted rooftop gardens: the Cité Universitaire was in these ways perfect for his plan. The Swiss Pavilion directs its glazed front south towards the sun, overlooking playing fields. Along the rooftop there are light and air wells, allowing students to sunbathe in privacy, and giving them a garden terrace with potted plants. Down at ground level, visible pilings support the building, which seems to float over a glass-walled lounge area. The stairs of the building are concealed in the curved back section, which is a well-balanced contrast to the 90-degree angles of the dormitory rooms. As you admire Corbu’s deceptively simple plan, consider that this masterpiece was built when many Parisian architects were still flailing around in the turgid remains of Haussmannism.


By Lisa Pasold (Special thanks to