Expressive Model Renders.

Through model making with 3DS Max and SketchUp I have created these expressive and playful graphics of the Villa Savoye. 

facade
pilotis
windows
garden
open plan
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Article.

Below is a study on the comparison of Architects to Gods in the way that they control and dictate our daily lives. Le Corbusier and Villa Savoye are the focus of this study.

The Five Architectural Commandments.

With Seventeen buildings on UNESCO’s World Heritage list you would be foolish to try and state that Le Corbusier was anything other than a Genius. All over the world he is praised as the pioneer of modern architecture and an advocate for better living conditions in crowded cities. His agenda pushed a purist design and the In the Villa Savoye, Le Corbusier represented his ideals in what would become one of his most praised creations. 

Le Corbusier believed his designs could cultivate a way of living. In his book ’Vers une Architecture’, he instructs on five design points essential to the purist way of living. He believed that using pilotis in a grid would elevate the building from the ground and give space to the, at the time, new technology of the automobile. Leaving the upper floor for living. As the building was raised and supported by these pilotis the floor plan was free from structural conditioning to allow for free design of the space. The facade of the design is free from structural constraints, again due to the pilotis. With the free facade the structure can be equally lit with ribbon windows, designed to let in the apt amount of light and offer an unobstructed view of the outside world. Lastly Le Corbusier believed that the building should give back the space it takes up on the ground and elevated the garden to the roof. Bringing the occupier closer to the sky, it also served a practical purpose by providing protection to the roof. The ultimate design and the machine for living in, Le Corbusier described his agenda by saying, ‘Modern life demands, and is waiting for, a new kind of plan, both for the house and the city.’

 

The Villa Savoye was constructed as a holiday retreat for the wealthy Savoye family. Le Corbusier was given free reign of the design, and though he believed in minimalism it was clear the concept would be one of luxury. Its hard to believe such a vision of great aesthetic design could also functional and in this case unfortunately the structure suffered a variety of ailments. Mrs Savoye wrote to Le Corbusier on many occasions. The main complaints included in these letter are as follows;

 

‘1. There is a broken pane and slat coming off a window in my son’s room.

2. The terrace side window of the bowser leaks so much that the boudoir is flooded. 

3. The rain makes an infernal racket on the window above my washbowl, which will stop us from sleeping in bad weather.

4. The upper part of the ramp in the vestibules flooded on the terrace door side.

5. One of the ramp windows is missing the last little glass triangle which also lets water in. 

6. The garage is flooded inside at the waste outlet point, right at the door of the garage, and under the passage between the second and third pillar the ceiling is completely soaked, Steps need to be taken urgently’

 

Mrs Savoye’s first complaint was in 1931 and continuously throughout the years Le Corbusier denied responsibility and liability for the flaws in the building writing ‘We feel that we carried out most conscientiously the task that you entrusted us with and are certain that you are ready to acknowledge this vis the payment that we are requesting from you’. This refusal to accept responsibility is as though Le Corbusier was in denial that he, the great creator that he was, could be involved in such a situation. By 1936 the Savoye’s were still writing the same complaints and it took another year, in 1937, for Le Corbusier to finally admit the flaws in his design. These letters and complaints are not highly published for such a studied architect. With this many important flaws this great structure would not have passed modern day building regulation sign offs. It is hard not to wonder, will the buildings of today that are not water tight, cause flooding and keep the occupants from sleeping be put on the same celebrated pedestal in the future?

 

Our lives are manufactured and described to us by those who create our environments. Le Corbusier created an environment for the Savoye Family to live in. His total control over the planning and design of the building led to a few short years of misery and discomfort. Though we still continue to promote this design as a ‘machine for living in’. Machines are well oiled, precise and above all they work. Occasionally they may break or lose a part which needs replacing but overall they fit a function. This description does not fit the Villa Savoye at all. Le Corbusier advertised himself as an architect who believed that buildings could promote and encourage good health and wellbeing. It is astounding to find that the Villa Savoye did not provide that factor for the inhabitants. Architects are frequently compared to gods in the way that they create and control. We follow their way of life. We, as human beings live as they tell us to and this allows the architect to place their design above all else. It serves a sense of self righteousness and height of hierarchy. Is this because they know best? If we follow the religion that Le Corbusier puts forth, quite obviously in this case, our lives are destined to be fulfilled and enjoyed in a soggy puddle like Villa Savoye. 

 

The Villa was left uninhabited in 1940, in the duration of world war II. In contrast to the original intention of use for the Villa Savoye, the structure was used as a hay store by the Germans and then later by the Americans. As the materials we’re not designed for structural durability both uses of the structure damaged it severely. After returning to the property and seeing the destruction of the design the Savoye Family abandoned all hope for the structure. Authority over the property was then passed over to the town of Poissy in 1958. After a short period hosting as a youth centre the Villa was scheduled for demolition. However as we know, the Villa still stands today. Architect Jean Debuisson protested with the intention to renovate and revive the building in 1963. Le Corbusier initially opposed this idea however in 1965 it was added to the French register of historical monuments and scheduled for renovation. It is worth noting that it is a first to have a building like this undergo renovation whilst the architect is still living. 

 

A recent photography experiment by artist Xavier Delory explores the durability and memory of Villa Savoye. In this experiment he used photoshop to create realistic images of the villa. Elevations of the house look as though they have been destroyed by human interaction and gratified with Le Corbusier’s five points of Architecture. The images show what could have been had the Villa not been Renovated. It is hard not to be shocked at the desecration of such a famous work of art. This shock however, shows an underlying hypocrisy in our appreciation for modernist architecture. Delory’s work is an irreverent look at the meaning of famed architecture in modern day. The Villa is an icon of function and order and these images which instil shock show that the villa is often treated as a cherished icon of architecture. The use if the villa by the Germanys and Americans cause far greater damage than what Delroy shows however we act as if that never happen. We act as though the Villa has always looked this way and completely ignore its history of shortcomings. This attack on the idolisation of Architecture places it with all of the other forgotten modernist structures of its time. 

 

The design of the Villa Savoye can be seen as purely egotistical. This was Le Corbusier’s time to surmount his beliefs and architectural religion in one simple design through the Savoye Family’s bank account. If a designer is not thinking of the occupants who are they designing for? When architects and designers start to design for themselves other than those with whom the product is for, does the design meet the intended need? I suppose it depends on the subterranean root of what the designs purpose is. There are many potential reasons that lie under the surface as to how designs for the curator become realisations. One of many interferences in this case was the fact the Le Corbusier was trying to prove a point. That his five points of architecture were all that was needed for the purist of living. He was confident this design would place itself in history as a memoir to his own architectural beliefs, for the world to appreciate. He once wrote to Mrs Savoye, ‘You should put what’s called a visitors’ book on the table in the hall down-stairs and each visitor will should write in their name and where they’re from’. In the late stages of construction, Le Corbusier was influencing the Savoye family to parade his monumental way of living for the benefit of his own acclaim. The concept of a smaller more minimal Villa Savoye gift shop was in sight. Where you could take home the memories of a great view, elevated sense of self and soggy feet.

 

The flexibility that the Savoye family allowed Le Corbusier produced a structure which was commanded by the five principles of design for his new architectural aesthetic, rather than the requirements of the inhabitants. This however pronounced the final conclusion in this phase of design rational. Le Corbusier was surely embarrassed and shocked that the religion he was preaching was not one that could be practically followed. That is perhaps why he denied for so long that his design was not fully functional. I am positive that the experience and time to reflect on his ideas improve his way of thinking, ‘you know, it is life that is right and the architect that is wrong’. As humans we spend our lives inside of buildings and our thoughts are shaped by their walls. Elements of a building can influence us, change human relationships and alter our state of minds. Architects do indeed design a way of life for us to follow. However, If they are not designing for us, who are they designing for? And if their designs reject the idea of our enjoyment, and place their ideology over ourselves, why do we owe it to them to place their designs on a pedestal?

© 2023 by JohnstoneProjects.