Cité de Refuge
12 rue Cantagruel
75013 Paris

Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret 1933

The Salvation Army Refuge in Paris was Le Corbusier's first opportunity to create accommodation for the urban poor, under the philanthropy of the Princesse to Polignac, an heiress of the Singer Sewing Machines fortune. The compact site provided the chance for a radical approach both to bringing in light and space and to laying out the entrance halls to accommodate the Salvation Army's reception process.

The core of Le Corbusier's design was the dormitory slab with a sheer glass curtain wall. Critical to the success of this south-facing glass wall was to have been a technologically ambitious system of double glazing and air conditioning ('respiration exacte'). These were never built as intended, and the sheer skin of the wall was lost to Le Corbusier's trademark brises soleils later on in an attempt to prevent the inhabitants from overheating.

In the spirit of the free plan, Le Corbusier took the entrance hall components out of the dormitory block, constructing a geometric pathway through separate reception buildings outside. It has been suggested that this

'clever reinterpretation of a Beaux-Arts ceremonial route... was directly inspired by the bastions, gate-house, moat and drawbridge of a medieval fortress. By metaphorical inversion the thick walls of past despotism became the transparent facades of supposed modern emancipation. The steel canopy with V-shaped tubes supporting it could be read as a drawbridge turned on its head.'

William J.R. Curtis in Le Corbusier - Ideas and Forms 1986



Simon Glynn 2001


How to visit

The Refuge is in use but can be seen from the outside.

Take the RER to Bibliothèque François Mitterand, and choose the Rue du Chevalaret exit. Walk south along Rue du Chevalaret, and at the first junction turn backwards right up rue Cantagruel. The Refuge is a few meters up on your right.

While in the neighborhood, you may want to visit the Bibliothèque François Mitterand.

Books and other web sites

Click the book title to view and to order direct from

0486250237_m.gif (4648 bytes) Towards a new architecture
Le Corbusier

Le Corbusier's original architectural 'manifesto', describing what he sought to achieve, as it first appeared in English in 1931. Accessible (if an unconventional style for today) and stimulating.

Le Corbusier: Ideas and forms
William J.R. Curtis

Readable (quite detailed) account of Le Corbusier's work, well illustrated and well structured.

Le Corbusier and the continuing revolution in architecture
Charles Jencks

A hefty but accessible analysis of Le Corbusier's life and work, drawing on his writing and painting as well as building design.

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