Completed in 1929, Villa Savoye is one of Le Corbusier’s masterpieces. A modern take on a French country house that celebrates the new age of the machine .
Image source: https://www.modlar.com/photos/9978/villa-savoye/
The house single handedly transformed Le Corbusier’s career as well as the principles of the International Style; becoming one of the most important architectural precedents in the history. Villa Savoye’s detachment from its physical context lends its design to be contextually integrated into the mechanistic/industrial context of the early 20th century, conceptually defining the house as a mechanized entity.
“The house, Machine for living in”
Le Corbusier famous dictum, that “The house should be a machine for living in” is perfectly realized within the forms, layout, materials, and siting of the Villa Savoye.
Located just outside Paris, the Villa Savoye offered an escape from the crowded city for its wealthy patrons. Its location on a large unrestricted site allowed Le Corbusier total creative freedom.
Le Corbusier had been developing his theories on modern architecture throughout the previous decade. In 1920, he founded the journal L’Esprit Nouveau, and many of the essays he published there would eventually be incorporated into his landmark collection of essays, Vers une architecture (Toward an Architecture) in 1923. This book celebrated science, technology, and reason, arguing that modern machines could create highly precise objects not unlike the ideal platonic forms valued by the ancient Greeks. Le Corbusier lavished praise on the totems of modernity—race cars, airplanes, and factories—marveling at the beauty of their efficiency. Le Corbusier sought to isolate what he called type forms, which were universal elements of design that can work together in a system. He found these across time and across the globe, in the fields of architecture and engineering.
Its essential geometric volumes embody his concept of the type form, and its careful consideration of procession and proportion connect the building to Classical ideals. At the same time, its clean simplicity and its use of concrete evoke the precisely-calibrated works of engineering so admired by the architect. The Villa Savoye represents Le Corbusier’s re-conception of the very nature of architecture, his attempt to express a timeless classicism through the language of architectural modernism.
The Villa Savoye is probably Corbusier’s best known building from the 1930s, and it had enormous influence on international modernism. It was designed addressing his emblematic “Five Points”, the basic tenets in his new architectural aesthetic:
- Support of ground-level pilotis, elevating the building from the earth and allowed an extended continuity of the garden beneath.
- Functional roof, serving as a garden and terrace, reclaiming for nature the land occupied by the building.
- Free floor plan, relieved of load-bearing walls, allowing walls to be placed freely and only where aesthetically needed.
- Long horizontal windows, providing illumination and ventilation.
- Freely-designed facades, serving only as a skin of the wall and windows and unconstrained by load-bearing considerations.
Image source: https://it.pinterest.com/pin/504966176948186700/?lp=true
Info source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Villa_Savoye
- Lower level: Upon entering the site, the house appears to be floating above the forested picturesque background supported by slender pilotis that seem to dissolve among the tree line, as the lower level is also painted green to allude to the perception of a floating volume. The lower level serves as the maintenance and service programs of the house. One of most interesting aspects of the house is the curved glass façade on the lower level that is formed to match the turning radius of automobiles of 1929 so that when the owner drives underneath the larger volume they can pull into the garage with the ease of a slight turn.
- Living level: the upper volume, are fitted with ribbon windows that blend seamlessly into the stark, white façade, which void the façade(s) of any hierarchy. The ribbon windows begin to play with the perception of interior and exterior, which does not fully become expressed until once inside. However once inside, there becomes a clear understanding of the spatial interplay between public and private spaces. Typically, the living spaces of a house are relatively private, closed off, and rather secluded. Yet, Le Corbusier situates the living spaces around a communal, outdoor terraced that is separated from the living area by a sliding glass wall. Both the lower level and the upper living quarters are based off an open plan idea that provokes the inhabitant to continuously meander between spaces.
Image source: https://it.pinterest.com/pin/567664728013523275/?lp=true
- Terrace: Le Corbusier treated the terrace as a room without walls, reflecting his desire to fully integrate landscape and architecture. Madame Savoye, as the architect, believed in the health benefits of fresh air and sunshine, and considered leisure time spent outdoors one mark of a modern lifestyle. The Villa Savoye’s integration of indoor and outdoor spaces allowed the family to spend time outdoors in the most efficient way possible.