Homage to a Master: The Bust of Le Corbusier

The story behind Marseille's new museum, MAMO, short for MArseille MOdulor, runs deep into the roots of modern architecture to pay tribute to a building and an architect. The recently opened MAMO is housed in the upper levels of Le Corbusier'sCité Radieuse, an extensive apartment complex built in 1947 that is often described as a “vertical village”. The pioneer of modern architecture was an instrumental urbanist who spearheaded the movement toward contemporary vertical living, making it no surprise that the architect would push the boundaries of urban living by incorporating all of 337 apartments, a restaurant, a hotel, a bookstore and a nursery school into one tower.

The beloved building was widely noted as a meaningful and prized piece of architecture and went on to be classified as one of France's historical monuments in the 1980's.

A turn of events took place for Cité Radieuse in 2010, when the building's rooftop gym and solarium went up for sale. Designer Ito Morabito, who goes by Ora-Ito professionally, purchased it as a collector might. “Like you buy a piece of art, but architecture,” he noted. After the acquisition, it became Ora-Ito’s self-appointed mission to honor the iconic structure.

Ora-Ito transformed the rooftop of Cité Radieuse into MAMO, a contemporary art center dedicated to exhibitions and creative ateliers. The renovation was a three year undertaking that involved a full restoration of the original rooftop structure, including the removal of an unsightly add on, and the realization of design elements in Le Corbusier’s blueprints that had not been realized when the building was originally constructed.

The opening of MAMO kicked off with the exhibition of Ora-Ito’s friend and sometimes collaborator, the French artist Xavier Veilhan. Titled Architectons, the exhibition features a series of large-scale sculptures made specifically for this space and includes an angular bust of Le Corbusier on the rooftop. Veilhan created Le Corbusier's bust as a way to pay homage to a master on the top of his legendary build. “Le Corbusier would be proud,” Ora-Ito said.

Photography by Diane Arques