17 Le Corbusier Buildings Just Received UNESCO Protection

The selection spans seven countries and 50 years of the modernist’s renowned career.


Yesterday, the World Heritage Committee inscribed four new sites on UNESCO’s World Heritage List, including a “transnational serial property” that includes 17 of Le Corbusier’s architectural works. The buildings, which span seven different countries, were chosen for their influence on architecture’s modernist movement at the turn of the 20th century.


UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee is tasked with choosing properties around the world that make up the best of what the built and natural environment have to offer. While ancient sites and famous landmarks often spring to mind as receiving UNESCO protection, in 2001 the UNESCO center launched a program for documenting and promoting Modernist buildings. Last year, when the U.S. nominated 10 of Frank Lloyd Wright’s works, it marked the first time America had nominated any modern architecture for the list.

Bénédicte Gandini/© FLC/ADAGP

The chosen sites were built over the course of 50 years of Le Corbusier’s practice, and include some of the Franco-Swiss architect’s most renowned works. His famous Capitol Complex in Chandigarh, India, for example, is on the list; Le Corb was tapped to build the concrete government building complex in 1950, soon after India’s independence from colonial rule. Also included is the Brutalist masterpiece Unité d’habitation in Marseille, the self-contained housing project that exemplified the architect’s idea that the house is “a machine for living in.” La Villa Savoye also made the cut–another example of a home built for efficiency and nothing more than the necessities. The blocky white modernist villa in Poissy, on the outskirts of Paris, that was meant to be a modern take on a French country house. The list also covers the National Museum of Western Art in Tokyo, Japan, and the House of Dr Curutchet in La Plata, Argentina.

All 17 buildings “reflect the solutions that the Modern Movement sought to apply during the 20th century to the challenges of inventing new architectural techniques to respond to the needs of society,” UNESCO writes. “These masterpieces of creative genius also attest to the internationalization of architectural practice across the planet.”

Under UNESCO, the sites will be protected and preserved by international law. Le Corbusier joins other famous modernist architects whose work is under UNESCO protection, such as the Berlin Modernism Housing Estates by German architects like Bruno Taut, Martin Wagner, and Walter Gropius. See more about the Le Corbusier masterpieces now on the World Heritage list in the slide show above.

[All Photos: courtesy UNESCO]

About the author

Meg Miller is an associate editor at Co.Design covering art, technology, and design.