82 rue de Villiers
Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret 1929
The Villa Savoye is a wonderful demonstration of Le Corbusier's 'five points of a new architecture', which he developed in 1927, exploiting the new opportunities of reinforced concrete:
The pilotis (supporting columns): 'The house on pilotis! The house is firmly driven into the ground - a dark and often damp site. The reinforced concrete gives us the pilotis. The house is up in the air, far from the ground: the garden runs under the house...'
The roof gardens: '...the garden is also over the house, on the roof... Reinforced concrete is the new way to create a unified roof structure. Reinforced concrete expands considerably. The expansion makes the work crack at times of sudden shrinkage. Instead of trying to evacuate the rainwater quickly, endeavor on the contrary to maintain a constant humidity on the concrete of the terrace and hence an even temperature on the reinforced concrete. One particular protective measure: sand covered with thick concrete slabs, with widely spaced joints; these joints are sown with grass.'
Free plan: 'Until now: load-bearing walls; from the ground they are superimposed, forming the ground floor and the upper stories, up to the eaves. The layout is a slave to the supporting walls. Reinforced concrete in the house provides a free plan! The floors are no longer superimposed by partition walls. They are free.'
The horizontal window: 'The window is one of the essential features of the house. Progress brings liberation. Reinforced concrete provides a revolution in the history of the window. Windows can run from one end of the facade to the other.'
The free facade: 'The columns set back from the facades, inside the house. The floor continues cantilevered. The facades are no longer anything but light skins of insulating walls or windows. The facade is free.'
(Quotations from Le Corbusier are from the house's visitor brochure published by the Centre des monuments nationaux.)
'The approach is by car and as one passes under the building (a demonstration of urban doctrine), and follows the curve of industrial glazing (of which the geometry was determined by the car's turning circle), it becomes clear that one is to be drawn into a machine-age ritual. The plan of the building is square (one of the 'ideal' forms from Vers une architecture), curves, ramp and grid of structure providing the basic counterpoint to the perimeter. The section illustrates the basic divisions of a service and circulation zone below, a piano nobile above, and the celestial zone of the solarium on top: it's the section-type of Le Corbusier's ideal city but restated in microcosm.'
'If the Villa Savoye had been a mere demonstration of formal virtuosity it would not have touched expressive depths. The tension of the building relies on the urgent expression of a utopian dream. Icons of the new age such as the ship and the concrete frame blend into forms born of Purist painting. The rituals of upper middle-class existence are translated into an allegory on the ideal modern life which even touches upon the Corbusian typologies for the city: separate levels for people and cars, terraces open to the sky, a ramp celebrating movement. The fantasy is translated into conventions that avoid arbitrariness and that reveal Le Corbusier's ambition to make an equivalent to the logic, order an sense of truth he had intuited in the great styles of the past. Rationalism was a point of departure, but not the aim. He wished to re-inject the ideal content that relativism and materialism had destroyed.'
William Curtis, Le Corbusier: Ideas and Forms, 1986
Simon Glynn 2001
How to visit
The house is open to the public.
You are free to tour the house unaccompanied, with an informative leaflet as a guide. The sitting room is partially furnished; other rooms are empty.
For practical visiting information and opening hours please call +33 1 39 65 01 06 or vist http://villa-savoye.monuments-nationaux.fr/en/.
To get there from Paris, take the RER line A to Poissy (west end of the line, 30-40 minutes from central Paris). The take bus 50, direction La Coudraie, stop Lycée Le Corbusier, or it's 15 minutes' walk (up hill) or 5 minutes in a taxi. Well worth the trip.
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