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Pavillon Le Corbusier – Modernist architecture and design

Pavillon Le Corbusier in Zürich

Le Corbusier (1887 - 1965) is best known for his architecture.

But as a visit to the striking Pavillon Le Corbusier demonstrates, his output was hugely eclectic. The exhibition pavilion is at once a tribute to the man himself, and an enchanting place from which to reflect.

Completed in 1967, the Pavillon Le Corbusier was designed to be a vision of what a modern home could be. It sits in the lush surroundings of the Zürihorn, a stone's throw from the Chinese Garden and Lake Zurich.

A treat for fans of modernist architecture and design

Having been unloved in recent years, the building was taken over by the Museum für Gestaltung and has been given a new lease of life in May 2019. The museum will curate a new exhibition each year during the summer months when the pavilion is open to the public.

Approaching the pavilion from the lake, one takes a winding course through the immaculately landscaped surroundings, pausing to appreciate the structure inverted in the reflection pool.

One is immediately struck by the building's ability to take on new forms from every angle. The bold colored panels strike a stark contrast with the leafy surroundings.

Pavillon Le Corbusier in Zürich

The interior of Pavillon Le Corbusier

The interior comprises a basement, ground floor, first floor and roof terrace. It is a welcoming, open space, which blends interior and exterior. You are free to explore the whole space.

A ramp protrudes from the rear providing stair-less access. It elegantly whisk visitors outside and back in again, and demands that you appreciate the building inside-out.

Pavillon Le Corbusier in Zürich
Pavillon Le Corbusier in Zürich(Photograph copyright ZHdK)

But in fact, the star of the show is the central staircase; a celebration of the marriage between form and function. The staircase embraces its concrete construction, the material in this case is integral to the success of the staircase. It is a remarkable achievement, at once beguiling and brutal, unapologetic and arrogant.

Rather than hiding away, the staircase becomes a part of the exhibit.

Pavillon Le Corbusier in Zürich(Photograph copyright ZHdK)

Spearing the heart of the building, the stairs at once provide an artery of access, and a thousand different viewpoints. And that’s the strength of this building: it is open construction.

The huge windows and angular geometry mean that there is a new frame to be found at every turn.

As such, the pavillon offers new perspectives on the familiar, reframing the everyday and giving it new life.

Pavillon Le Corbusier in Zürich(Photograph copyright ZHdK)

In his art displayed around the interior, Swiss French architect Le Corbusier abstracts the people and places of his life. He turns them into cubist forms, asking you to do as he has done, and challenge your perspective.

The building asks you to do the same thing. As you emerge onto the rooftop, your understanding of the space around you changes. With views out onto the Blatterwiese meadow, watching the world go by from the vantage points here is a delight.

About the temporary exhibition:
"Der Modulor –  Mass und Proportion"

The 2023 exhibition, Der Modulor –  Mass und Proportion, shows how Le Corbusier spent his life searching for ideal dimensions and a universally applicable system of proportions.

Pavillon Le Corbusier in Zürich(Photograph copyright ZHdK)

Le Corbusier's art is the biggest revelation. Refreshingly large canvases display wonderful tributes to form, echoing Joan Miró and even Pablo Picasso. Other highlights include the I Maestri collection of mid-century steel furniture designs. There are also spots to sit and sketch.

Pavillon Le Corbusier in Zürich(Photograph copyright ZHdK)

Why you should visit Pavillon Le Corbusier

Modernist architecture is often unfairly equated with utility, brutalism, and rigidity. Le Corbusier demonstrates that there is room for playfulness, too. Taking the components of modernism (along with constructivism and cubism), we are asked to consider the world around us and look at it with new eyes at Pavillon Le Corbusier in Zürich.

A treat for modernist architecture and design fans, the Pavillon Le Corbusier is located in the Seefeld neighborhood in Zürich. It is open Tuesday to Sunday from noon to 6 PM (May through Nov 17, 2019.) Admission is 12 francs for adults.

Le Corbusier House
Höschgasse 8
8008 Zürich
Phone: +41 43 446 44 68

Pavillon Le Corbusier in Zürich

Credits: Unless otherwise noted, all photographs are copyright Cloudia Chen.


Luc Benyon is a British writer and communications specialist based in Zurich. He has an unhealthy appetite for design and advertising history.

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