24 Hour Room Service: Hotel Le Corbusier, Marseilles

HOTELS ARE usually about getting away from it all; this one is more to do with being one of the people. Le Corbusier's Unite d'Habitation was built between 1945 and 1952, an icon of modern architecture. Here, Le Corbusier tried out his prototype for the problem of mass housing, the "vertical garden city". The hotel opened in 1960 with 25 rooms amid the apartments on the third and fourth floors.

It's not a place to leave you feeling indifferent. In fact it doesn't feel much like staying in a hotel at all, what with the international clientele of architects and the middle classes playing at living in high- rises, diluted by a football fan or two (the Stade Velodrome, home to Olympic Marseille FC, is only a few minutes' walk away).

The 340 flats were the concrete realisation of Le Corbusier's concept of hygienic, affordable living with the requisite light, air, silence and sociability. Each module was intended to work like a fully autonomous house with double-height living-room, children's and parents' bedrooms, and a fully fitted and equipped kitchen. A 137m-long, reinforced concrete block, the city within a city came complete with supermarket, baker, primary school and gym.

The more you explore, the more impressive the details you discover - a stack of figures embossed in the concrete facade, a long concrete bench dotted with coloured enamel blobs, the terrace up on the roof with its funnel-like ventilation shaft, gym and seating booths.

And, far from the usual Modernist white, colour was integral to Le Corbusier's concept - each balcony has a coloured panel and most of the apartment doors are still painted in their intended shades of red, blue, yellow, green or orange.

LOCATION LOCATION LOCATION

Hotel Le Corbusier is at 280 boulevard Michelet in the east of Marseilles (tel: 0033 4 91 16 78 00; fax: 0033 4 91 16 78 28).

TRANSPORT

Plenty of parking if you come by car, the best solution if you want to explore the surrounding area (Cassis, Aix-en-Provence, and so on) as well as the city. Otherwise, regular buses run to the Vieux Port and the town centre or down to the Corniche.

ARE YOU LYING COMFORTABLY?

Bedrooms are spacious and well soundproofed - unusual for a two-star hotel - and come with tables and masses of hanging space (built-in wardrobes are another Corb characteristic). Furnishings are functional but high quality: a huge wooden door, marble bathroom floor, a wood-panelled wall and beautifully slippery parquet. Blankets though are showing their age, not all the light switches work and the bathroom lights have that nasty insect problem. The view is amazing; one wall is almost entirely window, looking out over surrounding houses, a lighthouse and the sea beyond.

There's a bar and restaurant and, if the food is closer to office canteen than haute cuisine (three courses including steak-frites or plat du jour for FFr60 or FFr80 - pounds 6 or pounds 8 respectively), the dining-room is a masterful play of space with double-height window, balcony and mezzanine reached by spiral staircase. Service is amiable if minimal and once you have your room key, you can come and go like a resident of the flats.

STAYING IN TOUCH

Telephone and French TV in bedroom, Le Corbusier postcards available at reception.

THE BOTTOM LINE

No frills perhaps, but you'll rarely stay in a historic monument as affordable as this one. Singles cost FFr195 (pounds 20), doubles FFr285 (pounds 30). Breakfast in the restaurant costs FFr35 (pounds 3.50).

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
News
peopleMathematician John Nash inspired the film Beautiful Mind
News
Richard Blair is concerned the trenches are falling into disrepair
newsGeorge Orwell's son wants to save war site that inspired book
Life and Style
Audrey Hepburn with Hubert De Givenchy, whose well-cut black tuxedo is a 'timeless look'
fashionIt may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
Arts and Entertainment
The pair in their heyday in 1967
music
Life and Style
fashionFrom bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

    £40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

    Guru Careers: Software Developer

    £35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

    Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

    £25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

    Day In a Page

    Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

    Abuse - and the hell that follows

    James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
    Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

    It's oh so quiet!

    The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
    'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

    'Timeless fashion'

    It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
    If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

    Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

    Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
    New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

    Evolution of swimwear

    From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine