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Villa Savoye (Le Corbusier): the icon of Modern Architecture

Villa Savoye is not any house. Designed by the Swiss architect Le Corbusier, Villa Savoye means the starting point of  Modern Architecture and one of its world icons. Located in the smiling town of Poissy, Ville Savoye is a pilgrimage site for any architect or Architecture lover. Other mortals will find Villa Savoye and Poissy a nice and easy side-trip from Paris.

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WHAT IS MODERN ARCHITECTURE?

Modern architecture dates back to the beginning of the 20th century. Architects were tired of classical designs being used inappropriately for commercial buildings. In addition, there was a demand for new houses, which should be of better design than those existing. Modern Architecture was possible because new materials and methods of construction became available and architects started experimenting with them, testing its construction and aesthetic properties.

At first, there was a considerable antagonism to modern designs, which was not surprising considering the architects’ wish to break completely from the “conventional” buildings of that time. However the earliest works were all based on the epigram “FORM SHOULD FOLLOW FUNCTION” and undecorated, minimalist surfaces abounded.

Modern Architecture was led by Le Corbusier, Mies van de Rohe and Alvan Aarto in Europe. Frank Lloyd Wright introduced the modern style in America.

villa savoye le corbusier

via Flickr CC @Alan Wylde


VILLA SAVOYE LE CORBUSIER, “THE MACHINE TO LIVE”

Villa Savoye was designed by the Swiss architect Le Corbusier as the weekend home for the Savoye family. The Savoyes were a couple of bankers who gave the architect total freedom to express himself.

Baptized “Les Heures Claires” and built between 1928 and 1931, this villa closes the cycle of creation of the white or purist houses of Le Corbusier. With this “box in the air” (the house’s nickname given by its creator) Le Corbusier broke with traditional architecture and settled the five points of Modern Architecture.

The architect wrote about Villa Savoye:

The house will rest on the grass as an object without disturbing anything, because it is raised above a meadow. It overturns the traditional codes of the architecture of a classic country house and redefines all the architectural criteria of living spaces according to their function, their relationship of forms, light, and landscape

villa savoye le corbusier

THE FIVE POINTS OF MODERN ARCHITECTURE

Formulated in 1926, Le Corbusier’s Five Points of a New Architecture meant the beginning of the Modern Architecture in the 20th century and dictated a new approach to the design of domestic architecture. The freedom of this new design vocabulary allowed huge amounts of light, air, and space while creating uninterrupted openings in building facades and liberating the interior from the post and beam reinforced concrete structures within. Le Corbusier’s Five Points for a New Architecture are as follows.

1- THE USE OF PILOTIS (STILTS)

Le Corbusier replaced the supporting walls by a grid of reinforced concrete load-bearing columns, called pilotis, offering increased open space creating a “box in the air”

2- FREE, OPEN PLAN

Thanks to reinforced concrete and stilts, there is no need of bearing walls and Le Corbusier let the interior of the house open and free in its usage. The natural flow of space was a key characteristic of Modern Architecture.

3- FREE DESIGN OF THE FACADE

Free of the load-bearing structure, the exterior of the building loses its structural function and the architect has more freedom to design the facades.

villa savoye le corbusier

4- HORIZONTAL WINDOWS

Thanks to non-load bearing facades, the architect can design long horizontal windows. In Villa Savoye all rooms are lit equally and there is a selective view of the surrounding environment.

5- ROOF-GARDEN

The flat roof becomes a usable terrace where plants can be planted. In this way, Le Corbusier could bring nature into the home and it also allowed for increased views over the site.

villa savoye le corbusiervia Flickr CC @End User

Another concept applied by Le Corbusier to this house was the “architectural walk” (the use of a wide ramp linking the different floors instead of a narrow and vertical staircase) proposing the passageway from floor to floor as THE architectonic space for the XXth century and making intangible the boundary between indoors and outdoors.

villa savoye le corbusier

villa savoye le corbusier

Le Corbusier is also known for its furniture design. In Villa Savoye you can also find the iconic MLF Sofa and the chaise longue, one of Le Corbusier’s most famous designs. It is a beautiful design but not very comfortable! The chaise longue also appears at the edge of the bath in the parents’ bathroom.


villa savoye le corbusier

villa savoye le corbusier


VILLA SAVOYE PRACTICAL INFO

Poissy is in Yvelines department. To come from Paris take RER A5 at Charles de Gaulle-Etoile or Châtelet to Poissy Station. Out of the station, on the right, take bus #50 direction “La Coudraie”. The bus stop is called “Villa Savoye” (or just ask the driver to tell you when to stop). The exact address is Villa Savoye 82 rue de Villiers, 78300 Poissy.

Villa Savoye is open every day except on Monday, from 10 am to 5 pm. Entrance ticket is 8€. The entrance is free if you are an 18-25 citizen of the EU or during special occasions, like Les Journées du Patrimoine (next on 16-17 September 2017).

 

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villa savoye le corbusier

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  • cathy
    03/16/2017 at 2:47 am

    Rooftop garden is truly epic! Seems so cool! I love gardening on the main ground but roof garden seems like a great idea! 🙂

  • Ashwini KA
    03/15/2017 at 5:20 am

    Wow! Wonderfully explained! Very clear even for an architecture noob like me! And yeah, the place looks so amazing and appealing 🙂

    • WorldInParis
      03/16/2017 at 8:11 pm

      Thank YOU! 🙂

  • Hannah
    03/14/2017 at 9:14 pm

    I live for modern architecture, so it brightest my heart to read this article!

    • WorldInParis
      03/15/2017 at 9:39 am

      Cool to know that, more coming in the near future . . . thanks for your beautiful comment! 🙂

    • WorldInParis
      03/16/2017 at 8:11 pm

      Cool to read that! More modern architecture coming in the future . . .

  • Carol Colborn
    03/14/2017 at 8:15 pm

    I learned something new today, thanks to you! Five points of modern architecture!

    • WorldInParis
      03/16/2017 at 8:12 pm

      A pleasure 🙂

  • neha
    03/14/2017 at 6:04 pm

    It is so unique. Minimalist and modern. I love this modern architecture. And I would love to spend some time here experiencing it when I go to Paris. And why not, I can see the ingenious work of Le Corbusier in the design of the city of Chandigarh in India

    • WorldInParis
      03/16/2017 at 10:27 pm

      I know Chanddigarh only from the books but I would be curious to see it by myself me too!

  • sophie
    03/14/2017 at 2:35 pm

    Architecture at its best. The world has so much in it. this certainly is the best by far. Le Corbusier is the legend. he has some of the best creations gifted to this world.

    • WorldInParis
      03/16/2017 at 10:27 pm

      Agree 100% with you sophie. There are other LC’s works in Paris, maybe I will write a post about it some day

  • Pete
    03/14/2017 at 11:34 am

    A beautiful building. Would you believe, there is a copy of it – in black – here in Canberra near the National Museum of Australia.

    • WorldInParis
      03/16/2017 at 10:28 pm

      Really? :-O Need to check this on google, so curious now!

  • MICHAEL SORIANO
    03/14/2017 at 5:54 am

    Great architecture!

  • Indrani
    03/14/2017 at 4:50 am

    An architect called Le Corbusier had designed and planned the city of Chandigarh in India. I wonder if this person is the same.
    Indeed impressive designs.

    • WorldInParis
      03/14/2017 at 8:53 am

      Indrani, YES! We are talking about the same guy . . . 😉

  • Aldrick Agpaoa
    03/14/2017 at 4:27 am

    Wow! This is a piece of art in itself! The minimalist approach to everything just makes it what it is! It is very light and pleasing to the eye! I would want to have a sip of coffee there someday. 🙂

    • WorldInParis
      03/16/2017 at 10:29 pm

      Lol! Bring your coffee thermos then, there is no coffee shop in Villa Savoye. The bookshop on the ground floor is very interesting though

  • Nisha
    03/14/2017 at 3:17 am

    Considering that Villa Savoye was completed in 1931 it looks very modern compared to the buildings of that time. We in India remember him for designing the city of Chandigarh. in the nineteen fifties.

    • WorldInParis
      03/14/2017 at 9:06 am

      I think good architecture will always be evergreen architecture. I know about Chandigarh but I have never been there.

  • Brian - EatWorkTravel
    03/14/2017 at 2:21 am

    Not sure that I like the stilts concept but I love the rooftop garden! Amazing outdoor spaces always elevate a good building to great.

  • Marge
    03/14/2017 at 12:31 am

    I love that the architectural designs are modern, but the minimalism gives an old feel to it. I would love to check out Villa Savoye for myself someday. I definitely want to check the nook and cranny of this place.

    • WorldInParis
      03/16/2017 at 10:31 pm

      Well Villa Savoye has some years already and probably my photo filters help to that old feel you talk about 😉

  • Andi
    03/13/2017 at 7:59 pm

    Modern architecture isn’t really bad at all. As long as they are pleasing to the eyes, it is all good. I just noticed that before the 20th century where gothic designs and detailed architecture encompasses a more medieval or historic approach. But now, more of minimalist and geometric approach. plain and simple.

  • April
    03/13/2017 at 1:56 pm

    My son is an architect and we have some trips to see Frank Lloyd Wrights houses nwar us. Thanks for the great article and beautiful pics. I now know where to visit great architecture in Paris.

    • WorldInParis
      03/16/2017 at 10:32 pm

      Oh, for sure your son would love Villa Savoye! 🙂

  • Megan Jerrard
    03/13/2017 at 2:08 am

    I had no idea about the concepts behind modern architecture, so I’ve learned something new today! Many things actually! I’ve always been a massive fan of the roof garden, and I love how the villa sits above the land without disturbing anything. How fascinating to check out!

    • WorldInParis
      03/16/2017 at 10:33 pm

      So glad you liked the post Megan! Actually double glad if you learned something new thanks to me. Thanks for your beautiful comment! 🙂

  • Barb
    03/12/2017 at 11:05 pm

    Wow, i love modern architecture. This place looks beautiful. I will make sure to visit it next time i m in Paris

  • Angela @ Dang Travelers
    03/12/2017 at 1:53 am

    Very cool and unique find! I would love to visit at some point. The design is so sleek and modern.. love it!

  • Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie
    03/11/2017 at 9:51 pm

    I love the bathroom and the outdoor space on the other side of the ramp! What a great artistic find so close to Paris and a good reminder to think outside of the museum walls and find art in the world around us.

    • WorldInParis
      03/11/2017 at 10:15 pm

      Glad that you liked it. And yes, that bathroom is great with the chaise longue being part of the bath. Designed to be opened without any separation from the parents’ bedroom, there is a curtain today

  • danik
    03/11/2017 at 7:12 pm

    Wow. This place looks so unusual but would love to visit it. Never heard of it but if I got time in July on my next visit to the French capital, I try and make time for it.

    • WorldInParis
      03/11/2017 at 9:48 pm

      well, if you love architecture, this house would be nice to have it on your wish list 😉

  • Travellingdany
    03/11/2017 at 7:00 pm

    Wow I didn’t know about Villa Savoye and yet it’s so beautiful that I’ve added it to my bucket list! Your photos are awesome!

    • WorldInParis
      03/11/2017 at 9:48 pm

      Thank you Dany! 🙂

  • Jo
    03/11/2017 at 10:41 am

    What a stunning house! So great to be able to look round the place, thanks for sharing.

  • sher
    07/06/2016 at 7:13 pm

    so modern! i’ve heard of le corbusier but never seen any of his projects yet. will have to hop back to paris to check it out 🙂

    Sher

  • Paul
    06/21/2016 at 12:03 pm

    Really can’t believe the date this house was built! Such an amazing design and definitely a dream holiday home!

    • WorldInParis
      06/26/2016 at 9:28 pm

      Thanks Paul! I guess you also love the bathroom . . 😉

  • WorldInParis
    06/20/2016 at 11:51 am

    I can read all of you loved that bathroom, hahahah!

  • Anne Klien ( MeAnne)
    06/20/2016 at 9:00 am

    I love modern architecture as well as old, but the sleek design of the bathroom caught my eyes.

  • Carmen's Luxury Travel
    06/20/2016 at 4:04 am

    I love modern architecture so this is definitely up my alley! Great photos and post, thanks for sharing. Happy travels 🙂

  • Nicole | Wee Gypsy Girl
    06/20/2016 at 2:52 am

    Oooh, love that bathroom!

  • Karla Strand
    06/19/2016 at 11:03 pm

    I know nothing about architecture but it reminds me of Frank Lloyd Wright! Very cool!

  • christine leger
    06/19/2016 at 9:29 pm

    I always love a good independent thinker. Unique houses are always the best

  • Evan Kristine
    06/19/2016 at 12:03 pm

    Oh wow! Very impressive, I can’t believe this was built in the 20’s – the design is so millenium!

    • WorldInParis
      06/19/2016 at 7:18 pm

      Yeah, I could perfectly live in this house right now! 😉

  • Jenn
    06/19/2016 at 12:12 am

    Wow! What beautiful, clean lines inside and out! I’m no architecture expert but even I can tell this is a special place. Thanks for posting!

    • WorldInParis
      06/19/2016 at 7:20 pm

      Jenn, this is an icon of Modern Architecture. Any architect dreams of visiting it one day! 😉

  • Rodrigo
    06/18/2016 at 10:58 pm

    So unusual. Indeed a must see for any architecture enthusiast.