The iconic work for sacred architecture, a revolution in Christian architecture of the XXth Century. Component of the serial property inscribed on the world heritage list, 2016
The main part of the structure consists of two concrete membranes separated by a space of 2.26 meters forming a shell which constitutes the roof of the building. This roof, both insulating and water-tight, rests on top of short struts which form part of a vertical surface of concrete covered with "gunnite" and which, in addition, brace the walls of old Vosges stone provided by the former Chapel which was destroyed by the war-time bombings. These walls which are without buttresses follow, in plan, the curvilinear forms calculated to provide stability to this rough masonry. A space of several centimeters between the shell of the roof and the vertical envelope of the walls furnishes a significant entry for daylight. The floor of the Chapel follows the natural slope of the hill clown towards the altar. This floor is constructed of a cement paving poured in place between battens, the design of which is dictated by the Modulor. Certain parts, in particular those upon which the interior and exterior altars rest, are of beautiful white stones from Bourgogne, as are the altars themselves. The towers are constructed of stone masonry and are capped by cement domes. The vertical elements of the Chapel are surfaced with mortar sprayed on with a cement gun and thon white washed-both on the interior and exterior. The concrete shell of the roof is loft rough, just as it comes from the formwork.
Watertightness is effected by a built-up roofing with an exterior cladding of aluminium. On the interior the walls are white; the ceiling gray, of unfinished concrete; the flooring of cement and stone; the benches of African wood created by Savina; the communion bench is of cast iron made by the Foundries of the Lure.
Daylighting is furnished by a system of openings covered with clear glass, and, in places, with colored glass. This has no connection to stained glass; Le Corbusier considers that this form of illumination is too closely bound to old architectural notions, particularly to Romanesque and Gothic art. Therefore here there is no stained glass, but glazing through which one can see the clouds, or the movements of the foliage and even passers-by.
The interior of one of the these chapels is painted in intense red while a little further on the wall leading to the sacristy is painted in violet. The main door for processions (9 m2) pivoted in its middle, is covered on each face with eight panels of sheet steel enamelled in vivid colors at 760°C. This is the first time that this technique has been applied in architecture. The door opening eastward into the platform for open-air ceremonies is of cast concrete, with a bronze handle.
The Chapel (as are all of Le Corbusier's structures) is laid out by means of the Modulor. It has therefore been possible to reduce the whole to ridiculously small dimensions, in places, without making the spectator aware of them. Le Corbusier acknowledges the fact that here is manifested the plastic issue which he has termed "ineffable space". The appreciation of the dimensions stops aside before the imperceptible.
On one of the photographs reproduced here one can see the Chapel on its walls of masonry made from salvaged stones. A large number of these stones remained unused; it was decided that instead of carting them away, to pile them up in a pyramid at the edge of the grassed area. This was done so. One day Le Corbusier was asked to put up a monument to the Frenchmen who were killed on the hill at the time of the Liberation. As the pyramid was already there, Le Corbusier asked Maisonnier for the hammered metal dove which he had so beautifully made at the latter's workshop several years before. A mould for a bronze casting was made from this hammered metal. It was set up on a staff made of two angle irons gripping a slab of cast iron inscribed with both cut-out and raised letters. Thus a monument came into being-well situated, well proportioned and casting no more than the effort of conceiving the idea.
In the Chapel the only remaining unfinished work is the installation of the altar (tabernacle) and the final emplacement of the cross; the latter, occupying a position on the axis of the high altar, produces a mutual lessening in importance of these two opposing elements. The wooden cross will be placed somewhat off to the right; the enamelled tabernacle will receive the ritual cross.
Extract from Le Corbusier, Oeuvre complète
, volume 5, 1946-1952