In the beginning of the XX century, steamships were crossing the Atlantic Ocean. Each one of them could carry 2000 passengers for a 15-days trip between Europe and America, and in these days it became for them a sort of new house.
The image of all these people living, loving, fighting, making business, all in this big floating superstructure entered the social imagery of the time and little by little, more and more nautical elements were integrated into architecture.
In the first building, this integration was limited to decorative elements, then it became more substantial: all steamships’ characteristical elements were analyzed and transposed into architectural elements. The result of this work was the Unité d’Habitation.
Just like a steamship, the Unité d’Habitation floats over the landscape, suspended over a series of pillars. Apartments, hotels, shops, schools and hospitals lie in rows just like cabins, while the roof (the building’s deck) hosts public spaces, sport facilities and swimming pools. Inhabitants of the Unité have whatever they need within the building, and could spend all their life without going out of it.
MS Kungsholm, section showing the superposed decks (image: wikimedia commons).
Berlin Unité d’Habitation, floating over a park, 1957 (image: flickr).
Marseille Unité d’Habitation’ s hull, suspended on pillars, 1947-1952 (image by Emma Mykytyn on flickr ).
Apartments and shops on the sides of Marseille Unité , 1947-1952 (image by Emma Mykytyn on flickr).
Marseille Unité‘s deck, with view over the city, 1947-1952 (image: flickr).
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