Unite d'Habitation Apartment Interior Design Project


  1. Introduction
  2. Background
  3. Design Parameters
  4. Client
  5. Assessment
  6. Reading List

    See Also

  7. Smart Apartment Project
  8. Home


Winning Design by Ian Douglas

Winning Design

This project entails developing a proposal for a contemporary fit-out of an apartment in a seminal work of Modern' Architecture the Unite d'Habitation in Marseilles, designed by Le Corbusier (completed in 1952).

Le Corbusier's original design was a revolutionary proposal for a self-contained 'vertical city', containing apartments as well as community and social services. For this project, you are to concentrate on the apartment component of the design and to rethink what a cutting edge living and working environment might consist of today, taking into account what has been termed the 'information revolution'. Particular emphasis is to be placed on enabling inhabitants to work at home in a 'smart apartment' via the use of internet based Information Technology.

Emphasis is to be placed on integrating new technologies and modes of working with the domestic living environment of the occupant. This will entail making judgements as to what extent such a proposed living and working arrangement is viable, under what conditions, and how the interior fitout of the space can enable these conditions. Issues regarding social interaction, and public space versus private space must be addressed given that visitors , clients and business partners will at times be utilising part of the apartment/s.

The 'heroic' period of Modern architecture, of which this building is a prime example, was notorious for sacrificing individual needs and idiosyncrasies to the architect's grand idea of standardisation. You are to redress this situation by tailoring the space to a specific 'client/s' of your own choosing, within the limitations of an individual apartment. You are to respond to the original architect's intentions, and via your design, to critically comment on the building. In this sense, the project is a vehicle for understanding some of the major themes in 20th century design discourse.

Historical Background of the Unite d'Habitation

The Unite d'Habitation in Marseilles was Le Corbusier's first significant Post World War 2 structure (1947-1952). Part of the agenda for the largely self-contained 'vertical city' was to alleviate the severe postwar housing shortage. It is a twelve storey apartment block for 1600 people, designed to meet all the requirements of living. It contains domestic apartments as well as community and social services.

The structure of the building is simple. It is essentially a concrete grid, into which precast individual apartments are inserted like "bottles into a wine rack" as the architect put it. These apartment units open of an internal 'street', and contain double-height living rooms with deep balconies, amenities and sleeping quarters. All major dimensions of the building are generated by Le Corbusier's own proportioning system- 'the modulor' (based on the divisions of the height of a man with upstretched arm- 2.26m). As well as being an architect, Le Corbusier was a visual artist and furniture designer,. Each aspect of his interests played a major part in his unified theories.

Design Parameters

The primary concrete framed, structural 'shell' of the apartment is not to be substantially altered.

However, all internal partitions may be demolished or reconfigured.

In an apartment with such tight space limitations, it will be necessary to be able to reconfigure the spaces to accommodate living and working arrangements. This might mean retractable partitions, and furniture which can be transformed or retracted (e.g. from meeting table to dining table). This will require the design of custom furniture.

The following items are considered essential for a home office, although depending on your 'client', specific items may need to be included. All movable/sensitive work items must be able to be removed from view and locked away when not in use.

workdeskmeeting table
fax/telephoneoffice supplies
literature storagearchival storage
power/data/telephone outletspresentation unit
visitor office/desk

Some of these requirements can be married with the domestic living requirements. For example the meeting table can also function as a dining table, or the presentation unit, can also be the entertainment unit. Domestic items are to be determined as required for your client's living needs (bed, wardrobe, occasional guest wardrobe, coffee table etc.).

Particular attention must be paid to accommodation of services (electricity, data cabling, television and telephone connections etc.).


Students have the option of designing a living/working apartment using a single typical apartment unit, or combining two typical apartment which could be configured in a variety of ways (e.g.one apartment for living, the other for 4 employees, or two apartments for eight employees).

Students are required to construct a profile of their client/s. The following characteristics choices are suggestions only. Students are welcome to determine their own 'client's' characteristics and personal predilections.

  1. Sex: male/female
  2. Relationship status: single/has a partner/family situation
  3. Occupation: journalist/ artist-craftsperson/ engineer/ IT consultant
  4. Work times: early riser/ prefers to work in evening
  5. Hobbies: loves music/ avid reader/ passionate gardener
  6. Social interests: likes to entertain guests/ intensely private


A one page brief

Schematic design

Final submission

Assessment criteria


Tom Worthington is a visiting fellow at the ANU. He is interested in exploring and promoting the potential benefits of 'smart offices'. His website is http://www.tomw.net.au

TomW Communications Pty. Ltd. will be offering prize money to the most innovative and cohesive student proposal, which emphasises the potential of 'smart apartment' attributes. Late submissions will not be tolerated, and will not be eligible for the prize.

A number of the better proposals may be tested using a three dimensional visualisation system (virtual reality) at the ANU.




% grade for subject


project hand-out


sign-off on 'client'/hand-in of brief



studio work and tutorials


schematic design presentations



studio work and tutorials


final submission


Recommended Reading List

Le Corbusier and Unite d'Habitation

Home office design

Note: This is an edited, reformatted and corrected version of the Unite d'Habitation 2001 Project Handout prepared by Ross Anderson from "eUnite - Smart Apartment Design Requirements", for Interior Design 2 (Subject Number: 5034), Division of Science and Design, University of Canberra.

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