The only hotel in Marseille classified as a UNESCO World Heritage site is the Corbusier hotel in the Brutalist Marseille housing unit
Recommended by: Tony Chapman, former RIBA Head of Awards and C20 member. “Unité d’Habitation is one of the few modernist masterpieces anyone can stay in at any time. Not many Trip Advisor reviews can match Walter Gropius’s remarks on Le Corbusier’s best known building: ‘Any architect who does not find this building beautiful had better lay down his pencil.’ So I went with very high expectations.
I’ve always said you can’t judge a building without visiting it, but maybe you can get too close to some buildings, so the flaws are bound to show up. With some, a magnificent exterior can be let down by a lesser architect’s interior. But Unité is all Corb, down to the door handles, the cushions, the rugs and some of the furniture.
For me Unité is all about the outside: the beautifully modulated and still colourful facades; the drama of the undercroft formed by the elephantine pilotis that support the 12 storey slab block; and the rooftop that combines playground for children and adults, with sculpture park.
If it’s bouillabaisse in a little place round the corner, this is not the best quarter of Marseille to stay in, but fortunately I had an invitation from Jonathan Meades to dinner and a chance to experience Corb on a grander scale – his is the biggest apartment in the block and it has been magnificently and respectfully restored. A pity then talk of Corb had to take second place to Jonathan’s beloved Manchester United in the European Champions’ League on his wide-screen television.
A trip to Marseille must take in not only Corb’s best but Will Alsop’s too: his blue glass regional headquarters Le Grand Bleu easily matches Unité for ambition; and possibly Fosters’ best urbanism, Le Vieux Port with its beautiful reflecting roof, Stirling midlisted and the ostensible reason for my trip.
A double room is currently available through hotels.com from £83, though it feels more like a corridor. Though I’d suggest pushing the boat out and splashing £150 on a much more spacious deluxe double with sea view (I did, or rather the RIBA did). An architectural bargain, including breakfast in the superb dining room with more Corb original fixtures and fittings than you can poke a stick at. “