Our trip to France and Switzerland (1)

Our Technical School (ESET) organized the spring trip “France – Switzerland: Experiencing Architecture”. The trip was from Monday the 20th until Saturday the 25th. The main intention of the trip was to visit many important buildings of architecture’s history. We visited works from renowned architects such as Peter Zumthor, Tadao Ando, Frank Gehry, and Le Corbusier.

Notre Dame du Haut – Le Corbusier

Just after Fallas, on Monday night, we started the trip. Among teachers Ignacio Juan and Ana Ábalos, 35 architecture students departed for France. First destination: Marseilles. After almost 14 hours in the bus we visited the Unité d’Habitation, masterwork of Le Corbusier. Inside this ”vertical city” we can find everything needed for daily life, from schools to gymnasiums and shops. The Housing Unit of Marseilles houses around 1.600 people. There we visited a model apartment, the rooftop, and other amenities, all of them designed under the Modulor measures of Le Corbusier.

Unité d’Habitation – Le Corbusier

After midday, we headed towards another masterpiece of Le Corbusier: the convent Sainte-Marie de La Tourette. At night we had dinner there and then we spent the night in our individual cells. The next morning we had breakfast and visited almost all the spaces of the convent, such as the cloister, the chapel, and living rooms, among others. Also designed under the Modulor measures, the convent has large windows inspired in Mondrian’s designs. The convent is separated from the village, on a calm, silent, and peaceful hillside near Lyon. Le Corbusier takes special dedication on the natural lighting for the inner spaces of the building, as he used to say: “architecture is the wise, correct, and magnificent game of volumes under light”.

Rolex Learning Centre – SANAA

By Wednesday afternoon we arrived to Switzerland. We visited the Rolex Learning Center in Lausanne. This is a work from Japanese firm SANAA. We also visited Le Corbusier’s Le Lac house, in front of the Alps and the border with France. At night we arrived to Zurich where we spent the night. The Rolex Learning Center is property of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne. On this building we can find the library, cafeteria, offices and many rest spaces.

In 2016, UNESCO declared the Le Lac house of Le Corbusier World Heritage. The house is placed next to a lake and was built for his parents. This single-story house of 64 m2 has a bedroom, kitchen, living and dinning room, and guest room. In this house, Le Corbusier applies 3 of his 5 points of Modern Architecture, such as the horizontal window, the roof garden, and the free designing of the ground plan.

Interior of Notre Dame du Haut – Le Corbusier

The next morning we arrived to Notre Dame du Haut in Ronchamp, one of the masterworks of Le Corbusier and my personal favorite. In this chapel we can appreciate again that “wise, correct, and magnificent game of volumes under light” everywhere. The south wall has 32 openings of different sizes that allow light go through the building. Upper windows naturally light the 3 smaller chapels. Despite all the windows, most of the chapel’s lights come from the 10 cm separation between the roof and the load-bearing wall. In 2011 the new access and visitors center by Renzo Piano were inaugurated.

The first part of our journey ends with Ronchamp, our last visit in France. On the second part of this post our trip take us to Germany and back to Switzerland.

Francisco Jarrín


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