Over his extensive and noteworthy career, Swiss-French architect Le Corbusier developed a manifesto of architectural principles that would guide his work. An open internal floor plan, a free design of the facade, a substantial horizontal window, and roof gardens were four of the "Five Points of Architecture" that he instilled within his projects. Perhaps the most visible entry on the list is the implementation of pilotis, a grid of reinforced columns that bears the structural load and replaces supporting walls.

Villa Savoye, image by Flickr user August Fischer via Creative Commons

Pilotis are columns, pillars, or stilts that elevate a building above ground or water. They are employed for practical purposes in fishermen's huts across Asia and Northern Europe, while finding a more aesthetic application in modern developments. By raising levels of the building off the ground, space that would otherwise be occupied by internal walls and corridors is instead dedicated to a variety of functions. Parking, pedestrian pathways, and green spaces have historically been occupants of these spaces.

Sharp Centre for Design at OCAD U in Toronto, image by Flickr user John Vetterli via Creative Commons

One of Le Corbusier's most recognizable works, Villa Savoye just outside of Paris, elevates the volume with pilotis to allow for a continuity of the surrounding green space. Pilotis found an even larger use in the Brutalist Marseilles Housing Unit, which suspends 337 apartments on a series of exterior concrete columns. Pilotis have never particularly gone out of style but advancements in technology have altered their material and structural applications worldwide, with some buildings experimenting with form and colour to make the greatest visual or programmatic impact on the ground.

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