In France, in the Poissy area just outside of Paris, there is a house called Villa Savoye. It would be a great mistake to think that this house is an ordinary residence because Villa Savoye has a groundbreaking effect on the modern housing concept.
Villa Savoye, one of the most famous works of the Swiss architect Le Corbusier, is also included in the UNESCO World Heritage List with its importance in the history of architecture. He built Villa Savoye in 1929 for the Savoye family. From today’s perspective, this structure may not sound very exciting to many. However, before making a final judgment about Villa Savoye, it is necessary to understand both the architectural conditions of the 1930s and Le Corbusier’s design understanding.
The Rise of Reinforced Concrete
A reinforced concrete structure today is no surprise architecturally for many people. We can even say that the material has negative connotations when we have started to use the word reinforced concrete in a negative sense. However, in 1929, when Villa Savoye was built, reinforced concrete was newly used. Not having to make the interior walls as carriers provided incredible freedom in design and plan setup. That was very important to Le Corbusier as a modernist architect.
Having observed the industrial age and the changes it brought about very well, Le Corbusier had long stopped attributing moral values to homes. For him, families now only had mechanical functions. They were just the machines we lived with. Le Corbusier preferred to face as few obstacles as possible while making the house, which he saw as a mechanical system, operational. In short, as a reinforced concrete structure, Villa Savoye on the people of the period was similar to the effect of today’s high-tech skyscrapers.
5 Principles of Architecture
Le Corbusier, one of the most influential modernism architects, had his design ideas like all other modernists in this rapidly changing age. The only work where he can present all of these ideas in one place is again Villa Savoye. Here we see Le Corbusier implementing each of the points that he describes as the 5 Principles of Architecture. These can be listed as follows;
Le Corbusier disconnected the building from the earth and raised the first floor with thin columns. That is called ‘Pilotis.’ Building process starts from the first floor. The ground floor is reserved only for the service function. Moreover, to increase the pilotis effect, the architect painted the ground floor walls, which remain connected with the earth, to the environment’s dominant color, green. Thus, you can capture the effect of actually floating in the air on the first floor.
Most of the modernist architects advocate an open-plan setup. It provides flexibility in design with an open-plan layout. That was possible with reinforced concrete technology, which we do not find surprising today. Because, to have a free-plan space, none of the interior walls should be in a carrier position. Thus, free space construction becomes possible.
However, Le Corbusier avoided an entirely open space. While establishing a space in common areas has used dividing walls that do not serve as a carrier in wet areas and private rooms that require privacy.
The free plan setup also gave Le Corbusier the freedom to place the stairs. In addition to the stairs, Villa Savoye also has a ramp that wraps around the entire building.
For the roof of Villa Savoye, Le Corbusier preferred a terrace type roof. Thus, it was possible to install a function on the roof and to evaluate this area. Le Corbusier considered it a typical roof garden.
Tape windows, referred to as “ribbon windows” in the literature, are indispensable elements of Le Corbusier’s facade design. Le Corbusier claims that this allows more light coming into the structure. However, there is no numerical equivalent of this claim, the entrance of natural light to the interior increases with the band windows surrounding the whole building in Villa Savoye. The entire structure is covered with white plaster to emphasize this light effect more.
Le Corbusier cleans the façade of Villa Savoye from load-bearing elements, again taking advantage of reinforced concrete. That allowed him to have tremendous freedom in design. He could play whatever he wanted on the façade, creating openings in any place and size he wanted.
Villa Savoye, created with a building system that we see straightforward today, has enormously changed our perspective on the house. That, of course, is not just an engineering feat. Le Corbusier’s sophisticated design approach lies behind Villa Savoye’s influence on young architects even today. Full design philosophy and an elegant architectural practice can produce works that will not get old even though the ages pass.