Idea and development of the living machine | Marcelo Gardinetti

Estructura Dom-ino. Paris, Francia. 1914 (Le Corbusier. Max Dubois)
Dom-ino Structure. Paris, Francia. 1914 (Le Corbusier and Max Dubois)

The houses represent Citrohän the first important essay of Le Corbusier about a serial housing that can be constructed from standardized components. Convinced that the advance of industrialization can be the vehicle to meet much of the needs of man tries, with a practical criterion and rational lead its architecture towards that direction.

During the second decade of the twentieth century, Le Corbusier was forging his idea housing in series, idea that begins to mold in 1914 when developed with the assistance of Dom-Ino, the standardized structural system dom-ino, states in his subsequent trip to Germany, where it contacts the activity of large industries, and is promoted when in 1919, already installed in Paris, André Citroën rides his factory to produce cars in series. Since then, imagine a home produced as a car, which alludes in the name of the house in a clever play on words.

Intended to be built in any country, the prototype Citrohän is a review of the concepts of the Dom-Ino homes subsequent to the experiences in his pictorial activity with Ozenfant. In this project germinal, Le Corbusier puts into effect a catalog of ideas based on the influences collected during his formative years:

· The adoption of simple shapes that do survive aesthetic values ​​over time.

· The concepts expressed in the manifesto of purism in favor of precision and mathematical order.

· The adoption of unadorned forms promulgated years earlier by Adolf Loos.

· The housing cubic forms of the Mediterranean coast.

· The flat roofs of the “Cite Industrielle” of Tony Garnier.

· The large glass buildings of the early century Parisians.

· The idea of the model cell in the Ema Monastery visited in 1907, carrying Le Corbusier to say,

“I apply admirably to the workers houses”.

This compendium of influences is implemented from the first prototype of the Citrohän house developed in 1920, where first applies a resource design that will become a constant in virtually all housing projects: the use of the double height in social areas of the house,

“a mechanism that facilitates all architectural which can correspond to the organization of human habitation”.1

This mechanism described by Le Corbusier confers a social space housing a great dynamism visual, lets simplify natural lighting sources and create a space articulator or produce “unexpected dimension” that rehearses successfully at home in series for artisans in 1924.

Maison Citrohän | Fuente:
Maison Citrohän | Fuente:

Citrohän House Versions

“Maison Citrohän: only two walls of brick, stone, blocks of concrete, materials used in different countries. The slabs in the same unit. The lines of the structure of the frame of the window with useful gaps in the same module. The distribution of places, of agreement with the functioning of a home: abundant lighting destined for the pieces, the needs of hygiene solved .2

The first design of the house dates from 1920 Citrohän, a model seated on structural walls that develops on three levels. The ground floor is dominated by the dual space of the social area, which occupies half of the surface of the ground. The other half is occupied by the kitchen and dining room, below the mezzanine that splits into two main space. On the mezzanine is equipped bedrooms and a small living room linked with the lower level across the double space. At the third level are found secondary bedrooms and a terrace that occupies half the area and anticipates the first of the Le Corbusier´s five points.

A single entry of light on the south side, in the face free of the double space unifies the light intensity throughout the interior. The woodwork is placed flush with the wall and incorporates the access door to the house. Thus, the double height is transformed into articulator between the scale of the urban space and the simple scale of housing.

The vertical circulation is solved with the incorporation of two steps: an inner, which links the ground floor with mezzanine floor, designed with a plastic sense in contrast to the rigidity of the housing, and an outer along one of the sides the house, the street which links the living room of the mezzanine, and one and another with the terrace.

Maison Citrohän 1920-23 | Dibujos: ©FLC
Maison Citrohän, 1920 | Drawings: ©FLC

In 1922 Le Corbusier redesigned the house for submission in the Salon d’Automne, changing the bearing wall by an independent concrete structure as a support element, which allows the separation of the ground of the principal local to keep them off soil moisture, another incipient invariant of its five points. The entrance to the first level is solved starting from the addition of a wraparound terrace, and for the first time incorporates the car to the house, allocating a specific location located in the middle part with income on one of the sides. The staircase of a stretch that connected all levels moved to the inside of the house, relegated to a secondary role in the center of the mezzanine to the spiral staircase. This design enhances the standardization of the constituent elements by placing columns of 25 x 25 cm frame 3.00 x 5.00 m, generating four structural modules. The windows are designed based on a repetitive module.

Sección Maison Citrohän, 1922 | Dibujos: ©FLC
Section Maison Citrohän, 1922 | Drawings: ©FLC

In 1924 Le Corbusier he was commissioned by industrialist Henri Frugès, to build a neighborhood of housing for employees of your company, only trial in serial production that could implement. The housing design is a result of a number of changes made ​​on the model Citrohän, originated in the need for coupling of the housing; makes substantially modify the interior layout respect of the model. The houses in the Frugès neighborhood are again in contact with the ground, and its facade replaces the glass cloth unified by continuous window leading to another of his “five points”.

In 1926 the project “Minimum Maisons” takes concepts of the Citrohän variant of 1922 and the designs of the houses in the Fruges neighborhood in Pessac. That same year built the Maison Guiette in Antwerp on a small plot of 6 meters wide, a design that is also based on the model Citrohän, which highlights a staircase that stretches across the length of the house to link the street with double height workshop and terrace.

Sección Maison Guiette, 1922 | Dibujos: ©FLC
Section Maison Guiette, 1926 | Dibujos: ©FLC

The most developed models Citrohän was built in 1927 on the occasion of Weissenhofsiedlung in Stuttgart, residential exposure coordinated by Mies Van Der Rohe sponsored by the Deutscher Werkbund.

For this event, Le Corbusier produced two versions of the Citrohän house, a variant with two semi-detached houses on its lower side, elevated of the ground by a series of pilotis of iron, and an individual home, which summarizes the characteristics of the tests carried since 1920.

The individual house Stuttgart retakes the distribution criterion interior of the design of 1920, and the high ground with the staircase model 1922. The structure defined in modules of 2.50 x 5.00 meters in a plant of 75 m2, and a vacuum that reaches almost half of the surface of the plant. The mezzanine crosses the housing diagonally to reach the rest of the stairs, and in turn expand the visual dimension interior, similar to the tested criteria in houses in series for artisans in 1924. The spiral staircase, vertical element that in the first model generated a necessary counterpoint to the horizontality of the mezzanine, is now replaced by the ventilation duct the stove home, located exactly 1/3 of the width.

Sección Maison Citrohän en Weissenhofsiedlung en Stuttgart | Dibujos: ©FLC
Section Maison Citrohän in Weissenhofsiedlung in Stuttgart | Drawings: ©FLC

The homes of Stuttgart are the latest variants of the idea liminar housing manufactured in series. In the years after Le Corbusier begins to approach the course of their work toward collective housing to solve the housing problem of the man who finally implemented in the design of their housing units. The long road of experiences traveled at different stages of the Citrohän house remained in force in greater or lesser degree in all subsequent designs for housing, individual or collective. The Citrohän house was a laboratory where Le Corbusier was able to test the spatial hierarchies of housing using double height space and further progress in an exercise architectural that allowed him to model his famous “five points.”

Marcelo Gardinetti. Architect
La Plata, Argentina. April 2016


1. Le Corbusier, Complete Works, volume I 1910-1929 pag. 31

2. Ibídem

Marcelo Gardinetti

No voy a hablar de la penumbra, mejor voy a ver si puedo despertar.

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