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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.
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
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.
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.
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.
via 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.
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 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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