Teaching (DT) digital technologies for architects and landscape architects with Le Corbusier’s Maison Dom-Ino


Le Corbusier’s iconic construction system “Dom-Ino” marked the beginning of the industrialization in construction industry about 100 years ago, shaping the architecture for the next century by introducing a structural frame independent from the envelope. The concept also abandoned the idea of “total design” where the architect controls the whole process. Thus the role of an architect changed to a service provider and building getting commodities rather then art.

“The single most devastating consequence of modernism has been the embrace of a process that modernism has been the embrace of a process that segregates designers from makers.”

This shift was across all manufacturing and known as the Second Industrial Revolution. Since then the development in industrialization in the construction industry was very limited, even seeing a decline of productivity and lacking behind other industries.

In the last years design-to-fabrication adopting workflows and methods from modern manufacturing, including prefabrication and modular construction have become increasingly significant in building design and construction management as a way to increase productivity. Digital models and physical spaces are on a converging path allowing better collaboration and communication between architects, engineers, manufacturers and contractors overcoming the segregation in the industry. This allow to validate a landscape and construction projects even before a single tree is planted, to translate and export the 3D models to machine readable data, processed either in prefab facilities or on-site.

As manufacturing and construction become increasingly automated, more and more specific skills in the fabrication processes and in the languages used by information technology are required of the architects and landscape architects.

Using the very simple structure (horizontal slabs, columns and staircase), the highly parametric character in the under-laying proportions and inner logic, the modular character and possible customization by the strict separation of the structure and envelope the teaching series covers the basics to this new methods and techniques of managing and controlling fabrication for AEC, including but not limited to BIM (with Revit).

The series of tutorials / teaching sessions has following lessons

1. Building the base BIM model (structural model) in Revit
2. Building a the structural model with Dynamo/Design script based on few parameters
3. Creating a building using the structural base model and coordinating it with the landscape model
4. Transferring the model in to a parametric Revit family
5. Virtual and augmented reality
6. Generative design and Artificial Intelligence

The Maison “Dom-Ino”

One hundred years ago Le Corbusier developed Dom-Ino, a series of housing prototypes for post war reconstruction. By November 1914, one fifth of the Belgian population was homeless.
Le Corbusier’s solution was radically: a series of three standardized, two-story house modules made up of concrete slabs supported on columns and a staircase. He intended to patent the idea (in partnership with his friend and concrete firm owner Max Du Bois) of a housing assembly line, like the one Henry Ford had invented for cars only the year before. The system – an acronym that combined domus and innovation – never saw production but became an emblematic project of twentieth-century architecture and a precursor to one of the most widespread building systems: the concrete structural frame.

In his book “Précision sur un état de l’Architecture et de’´urbanisme” Le Corbusier traced three very recognizable guidelines for the future Modern Architecture: • Architects should be open to new materials and construction systems. • Architects had to be sensitive to new social realities and reduce the common housing dimensions by the time of increasing collective use areas. • Manufacturing had to be based on industrial dynamics, with a rational and efficient task management

The rigid post-and-slab structure creates also a direct link to Le Corbusier’s ‘Five Points of a New Architecture’ (1927) are linked by their reliance on a rigid post-and-slab structure. This structure eliminates the load-bearing walls and the supporting beams for the ceiling, giving floor plans completely independent of the structure and thus giving freedom to design the interior configuration.
Peter Eisenman also see the building as the beginning of modernism based on his “self-referenctiality” as solution completed in itself, arguing in his essay “Aspects of Modernism: Maison Dom-ino and the Self-referential Sign” that the form is defined by the architects intention beyond functional or structural necessities. More than the specific system itself, it is that ideas of standardization, industrialization, customization, “self-referenctiality” and the role of architect as that are so relevant today.

Material and dimension

Even Le Corbusier was intensive searching for a project opportunity for the system, there was never build or patent granted. The iconic perspective, floor plane and sections do not reveal dimensions, materials or construction methods, but in some sketches and letters we can find some clues even some questions and conflicts remain. The perspective creates the appearance of a monolithic (reinforced) concrete structure, the sections and sketches suggest that the slab is composed from hollow concrete elements. Most common interpretation is that Le Corbusier intended to use prefab steel elements as frame-work casting columns and beams in the gaps between the hollow elements in-situ.

Based on the drawings we can derive easily two basic vertical relationships: • The height from slab to slab equals the riser times twenty, • The slab thickness is double of the riser Following Eisenman’s analysis we also know that the distance between the colums is the same in both directions, and the width of the stair, the length of the landing and the square cut-out is related to the grid distance. Some of Le Corbusier’s interior drawings (FLC 19…) contain some measurements and suggest a grid around 4m. From there we also can derive the length of the 9 threads of the stair is around 3m, with treads around 33 cm and riser of 15 to 16 cm. A closer look to the relationship between the staircase and the hollow elements forming the slab reveals that the 8/11 of distance between the columns equals nine treads or a = tread 9 /8 11
3/11 of the overhang at the long side. For a solution with all integer numbers (in cm) for the treads, riser, distance between columns, size of the hollow blocks, the tread must be a multiple of 8 around 33 cm, therefore 32 cm is the tread size, giving the distance between the columns 396 cm, and the hollow block wide of 36 cm. The length of each hollow block comes than 90 cm with 3 beams a 12 cm in between. A 32 cm tread and a 16 cm riser would create a well proportionate staircase, leading to 3.20 distance from slab to slab, the slab thickness would be 32 cm. The column size we assume with half size of the slab or 16 cm, the grid is the distance between column size plus the column size or 404 cm and the overhang 108 cm.