Monday, 1 June 2009

Looking at Le Corbusier

Early into my Design studies back in university we were introduced to the architectural genius of Le Corbusier. We looked at black and white photographs of his flat roofed geometric creations that revealed the birth of modernism through his so called ‘Purist’ style or as it is referred to today, ‘Minimalism’. So some thirty odd years later I was keen to visit some of his classic architectural designs during our time in Paris. Of course the jewel in the crown was ‘Villa Savoy’ (designed in 1928) which has been beautifully restored and is now a must see for anyone at all interested in modern design. After a thirty minute train trip from the centre of Paris we found ourselves in the nearby town of Poissy and after a short walk up a hill, we approached the impressive stark white building standing majestically against the lush greenery of a generous sized garden. Having seen it so many times in books, it was wonderful to be able to walk around it and view the inside of a building that had literally changed the direction of domestic architecture. A few weeks later Jules and I visited Le Corbusier’s apartment studio in Paris, which although comparatively humble, showed some really interesting design features that maximised the space and utilised his roof top views. Close to our apartment in the 16th arrondissement was another notable domestic design that was certainly worth a visit. Villa La Rocca was designed in 1923 for a Swiss art collector and like Villa Savoy, has some distinctive features such as an impressive internal ramp that gradually leads you upward to the first level. Like all of Le Corbusier’s greatest designs, there is a distinctive sense of functionality and modernity that must have been quite confronting at the time. While his high-density designs tend to leave me cold (and were somewhat of a social disaster), there is no denying the quality of his domestic houses. The use of space and light is often quite remarkable and as we walked around, it was like strolling through a familiar work of art with features that continue to be replicated in so much of our architecture today.

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