The Villa Savoye is considered by many to be the seminal work of Le Corbusier. Situated at Poissy, outside of Paris, it is one of the most recognisable architectural presentations of the International Style. Construction was substantially completed around 1929.
The Villa Savoye was designed as a weekend country house and is situated in a meadow, which was originally surrounded by trees. The polychromatic interior contrasts with the primarily white exterior. Ramps as well as stairs facilitate vertical circulation. The house fell into ruin during World War II, but has since been restored and is open for viewing.
The house was emblematic of Le Corbusier work in that it addressed ‘The Five Points,’ his basic tenets of a new aesthetic of architecture, constructed in reinforced concrete:
- The pilotis, or ground-level supporting columns, elevate the building from the damp earth allowing the garden to flow beneath.
- A flat roof terrace reclaims the area of the building site for domestic purposes, including a garden area.
- The free plan, made possible by the elimination of load-bearing walls, consists of partitions placed where they are needed without regard for those on adjoining levels.
- Horizontal windows provide even illumination and ventilation.
- The freely designed facade, unconstrained by load-bearing considerations, consists of a thin skin of wall and windows.
The freely designed facade, unconstrained by load-bearing considerations, consists of a thin skin of wall and windows. Given that Villa Savoye is an excellent example of Le Corbusier's ‘Machine for Living’ ideal, it is no surprise that the house employs a number of mechanical devices for easing manual tasks. In the sunroom, for instance, the large windows crank open with a lever. In the kitchen, the cabinets efficiently slide open on either side. The kitchen is all utilitarian white, in contrast to the almost decadent master bathroom with its aqua tiled bathtub. He also exposes radiators throughout the house. The fireplace in the sunroom is pierced by a piloti. Here, Le Corbusier goes much further than merely refusing to hide the structural supports of the house. The radical juxtaposition of fireplace and piloti both celebrates the structural frame and exaggerates the seemingly arbitrary relationship of architectural features to the structure.
Le Corbusier chose a flat roof for the Villa Savoye; a move he argued was for functionality, though it may just as well have been for the appearance of functionality. Eventually, the roof proved less than fully functional and leaked. The owners took Le Corbusier to court. But World War II broke out before the matter was settled, and the building was left in a state of disrepair. Less frequently described, however, is one of the most exciting things about the house: its extreme spatial dynamism. The walls bulge and curve to push and pull at the spaces and entice the occupant from one room to the next. Views of the landscape are framed to draw the eye into the frame and beyond. Le Corbusier uses ramps to speed one from floor to floor. In one homemade film, he rides a bicycle around the roof. The building is a spatial playground.