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Art Through Time: A Global View

Domestic Life Art: Villa Savoye

» Le Corbusier (Charles-Édouard Jeanneret) (Swiss, 1887–1965)

Villa Savoye

Villa Savoye
Artist / Origin: Le Corbusier (Charles-Édouard Jeanneret) (Swiss, 1887–1965)
Region: Europe
Date: 1929–1931
Period: 1900 CE – 2010 CE
Material: Concrete and masonry
Medium: Architecture and Planning
Location: Poissy, France
Credit: © 2009 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris/FLC/Courtesy of Anthony Scibilia/ Art Resource, NY

Le Corbusier was a philosopher of architecture as much as he was a designer of buildings, and many of his ideas and innovations have come to define the essence of architecture in the Modern era.

He drew inspiration from the geometry of ancient Greek and Roman structures. At the same time, however, he was proudly living in the machine age, and looked to cars, ocean liners, factories, and even grain silos as more contemporary sources of influence. In 1923 Le Corbusier wrote: “The house is a machine for living in.” This was a radically new view of the domestic sphere, one that is evident in his design for the Villa Savoye.

The Villa Savoye sits in a tree-encircled field in the Parisian suburb of Poissy. It is constructed with man-made materials of concrete and glass, and the layout of the main entrance assumes that visitors will arrive by automobile. From the outside, the house appears as a rigidly uniform rectangular mass propped up on piers, a trademark of Le Corbusier’s style that he called pilotis. Inside, however, the living space eschews this static austerity.

Within the Villa Savoye, the architect has created a space that is dynamic. It contains ramps, elegant curves, splashes of color, and a clever interplay between interior and exterior. The bathtub, for instance, covered in whimsical blue tiles, includes a built-in chaise lounge with access to a view outside. Looking out through that horizontal band of windows makes the surrounding grounds seem almost like a mural. The roof garden, at the top of a ramp, is another of Le Corbusier’s essential elements of the modern house. Here there is an undulating, sculptural windscreen with a small rectangular cutout, again framing the view as if it were a painting.

Expert Perspective:
Alexandra Griffith Winton, Design Historian

“The International Style architects tended to take a very alien view to nature. Le Corbusier tended to have his villas hovered over the ground and they tended to have very restricted views of the outside from within the house, actually framing one’s view in a very sort of strict manner.”

Additional Resources

Ando, Tadao. Le Corbusier: Houses. Toto, 2001.

Benton, Tim. The Villas of Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret 1920–1930. Basel: BirkhäuserBasel, 2007.

Blake, Peter. The Master Builders: Le Corbusier/Mies van der Rohe/Frank Lloyd Wright. New York: W.W. Norton, 1960/1996.

Le Corbusier. Towards a New Architecture. Translated by Frederick Etchells. New York: Dover Publications, 1986.

Colquhoun, Alan. Modern Architecture. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2002.

Curtis, William J.R. Le Corbusier: Ideas and Forms. London: Phaidon, 1994.

Frampton, Kenneth. Le Corbusier: Architect of the Twentieth Century. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 2002.

“Villa Savoye, Poissy-sur-Seine, France.” In The Collection. The Museum of Modern Art Web site.

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Art Through Time: A Global View


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