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Roadside Attractions: 3 Architectural Drives in Central Europe


French Modernism



The architect Le Corbusier (né Charles-Édouard Jeanneret) influenced generations of Modernists with his wide-open floor plans, ribbons of glass, and, later in his career, high-rise apartment blocks surrounded by parks. On this expedition from Paris to the Mediterranean, you'll visit the greatest hits of the Modernist master.

THE ITINERARY | DAY 1 Begin the pilgrimage with a stop at Villa Savoye (82 Rue de Villiers; 33-1/39-65-01-06; www.monum.fr) in Poissy, in a western suburb of Paris. Le Corbusier referred to houses as "machines for living," and this streamlined white box on stilts, with its curving, glass-enclosed ground floor designed to match the turning radius of the owners' roadster, proves his point. Immaculately restored in the mid-nineties, the house looks every bit as crisp and glamorous as when it was built, in 1930. From Poissy, jump on A13 and head southeast through the Marne Valley and Haute-Saône to Ronchamp (A13 to A6 to A5 to E54; 277 miles), where, in 1955, Le Corbusier built his famous chapel Notre-Dame du Haut (13 Rue de la Chapelle; 33-3/84-20-65-13). The pillowy roof, which mimics the shape of a seashell, is unmistakable.

DAY 2 From Ronchamp, head south toward Lyons (E54 to A36 to A6; 210 miles), then drive 15 miles northwest on N7 toward L'Arbresle and follow the signs for Éveux. That's where you'll find the Dominican monastery of Sainte-Marie de la Tourette (33-4/74-26-79-70; www.couventlatourette.com), built in 1955. It's a tough-looking building, but it has pleasing proportions and lovely views. Visit one of the priory's perfectly proportioned cells: for $60 per person you can stay in it overnight.

DAY 3 The next day, head south on A7 to Marseilles (197 miles), where Le Corbusier built the Brutalist but human-scaled and subtly colorful Unité d'Habitation (280 Blvd. Michelet; 33-4/91-16-78-00), a "vertical village" that started the sixties fashion for exposed concrete. Several of the units within the complex make up a tiny hotel (www.hotellecorbusier.com; doubles from $67).

DAY 4 Start the last day with a leisurely drive along N98 through the seaside towns of the Côte d'Azur (or make a speedier trek east from Marseilles on the A8 motorway; 146 miles) past Monaco to the fragrant hills of Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, where in 1952 Le Corbusier built Le Cabanon, his own wooden cabin by the sea, as well as a block of colorful guest cottages nicknamed Unité de Camping (Sentier Le Corbusier, Cabbé; 33-4/93-35-62-87).

GENERAL INFO The Corbusier Foundation (www.fondationlecorbusier.asso.fr) in Paris has biographical information on the architect and addresses of his existing buildings—with visiting hours, where applicable—in France, Switzerland, India, and elsewhere. The French Motorway Federation (www.autoroutes.fr) offers detailed directions for any itinerary.


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