Play Architecture at the Villa of Stilts

Daily Draw July 28th, 2012

Le Corbusier
Villa Savoye
Poissy, 1929-31


The only “machine for living” that Le Corbusier designed that I like. His cousin Pierre Jeanneret was also involved in the design. I generally don’t like houses on stilts because people tend to junk up the lower area around the stilts with boxes and bicycles and old tires and the detritus usually found behind the doors of a garage. This of course is a display house so they haven’t done that, although if you see in the first diagram he has cleverly provided a hideaway for cars on the first level.



The other side of the lower floor showing the living space and the spiral staircase. I like that he’s framed the windows in the same painted wood as the garage doors on the opposite side.


Here is a snap of the two pages devoted to the house in Volume 1 of Architecture in the 20th Century by Peter Gössel and Gabriele Leuthäuser where they refer to the house as “…a smooth prism raised on stilts with a rich interior life.”


Le Corbusier liked the pure volumes of the geometry of cubes and prisms, cylinders and spheres. Purity referring to the basics of shape, and the way such basics stopped arbitrary over-exuberance and over-embellishment. Plus they let in lots of light because they were so open, another necessary design aspect for this architect, at least in his early designs.

In one photo, you can see the famous chair he designed that I referenced in my discussion of the architect on the King of Spades in this deck. The garden starts with a terrace outside the windows of the living spaces on the second floor, and then there is a ramp leading up to the roof level. It is this rooftop garden that saves the house for me, it just makes the second floor and the roof come alive. Some of the interior ramps look a bit too institutional but the spiral staircase is handsome. It was supposed to a much larger home but due to costs Le Corbusier had to amend the plan.


The roof always leaked even when the family lived there, and then the Savoye family left the estate in 1940 during the war. It was badly damaged due to German and Allied occupation of the estate during WW II, and by the late fifties it was used as a youth centre and the town planned to demolish it. The architectural community reared up and protested, and Le Corbusier, who was still alive, got on board and it was listed as a historical site and restored over decades. The concrete had deteriorated, general structural repairs and rewiring were needed, and many of the original fixtures and furniture were reinstated.

I am glad they saved it, this is a house that is too interesting to lose. I love, love, love it.



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