It’s a private residential house in the suburbs of Paris by Le Corbusier built in accordance with Modern International movement. How often do we hear this exact same line with changing specifics while defining an edifice?
This piece isn’t just about a structure designed by a famous architect because that has been done and written a million times by a million people. It is about putting together a theory of architecture with respect to its architect and the era it was built in. It’s about learning to perceive things and develop an eye for details which everybody so easily describes minimal. The word ‘minimal’ or ‘minimalism’ is not just about ‘less is more’. It’s about being efficient and aesthetic at the same time. Maybe it defies ornamentation but never beauty.
About the Savoye’s house, we know that it looks like a floating rectangular box with a horizontal band of windows encasing a spiral staircase. It follows the five points formula as stated by Corbusier. But inside this frame of sliding windows is an intricate volume that’s so carefully and proportionately intertwined with the required functions that the mind boggles. The floors aren’t just stacked and connected by vertical circulations, they are fluid in movement. One doesn’t feel the concept of a ground floor for public usage and first floor for private rooms. The bifurcation exists but the levels act like one. Not only is the spatial configuration in harmony from the inside but holds a transparent dialogue with its exterior as well. The merger of indoors and outdoors is through the terrace that opens from more than one room and leads to the roof with a ramp.
One of the many interesting things about Le Corbusier was how he could successfully convert his theories and words into designs. He believed in the Industrial Revolution, Modernist ideas and inventions that radically altered the speed of lives. He was a huge fan of the automobiles, airplanes and steam engines but when he stated ‘ A house is a machine to live in’, he didn’t mean walls devoid of sentiments. He tried to create spaces which function like technology : firmly, efficiently, elegantly and reliably. Even the ‘five points’ reinforce this idea with the strength of pilotis, flexibility of open plans and logicality of freedom from structural constraints. The architect didn’t formulate these points based on his version of philosophy but as a basic means of upgrading architecture as a progressive profession. Villa Savoye in its perfect rectangle infuses all these qualities within people, its own walls and with the surroundings.
Its ground floor has a curved wall that worked as the turning radius for the cars of those times. The living room and master bedroom open to the terrace which connects the house from the inside, increasing its communal behaviour. The curved walls on the roof aren’t arbitrarily placed but oppose sunlight to create shaded spaces. There’s an outdoor window through which a beautiful view of the Seine river is captured. This is again the simplistic attempt by Corbusier to connect the villa on a city level.
A signature Corb building is incomplete without the use of colors. This is evident and recurrent in all his projects irrespective of typology. Even here, he uses basic shades of blue and red for the interior and green for the outer curved wall in the ground floor to camouflage it with the surroundings. This escalates the belief of the white floating box.
Apart from all these details that Le Corbusier managed to arrange in this project, he also expresses his immense respect for golden symmetry, balance and rational context. The combination of these attributes and many more that Villa Savoye symbolizes were the result of his search for modern perfection.