The Villa Savoye is an iconic modernist opus designed by Le Corbusier. It was completed in 1931 as a family retreat in Poisse near Paris. It also remains as his best exemplar of his Five Points for a New Architecture. Those points are:
- Ground-level pilotis (the slender columns) that elevate the building, separating it from the earth, allowing the landscape to enter the building.
- A roof that can serve as a garden and terrace, which is a reclamation of nature.
- Open floor plan by relying on pilotes which does away with the bearing wall, freeing the wall to be placed only as aesthetics dictate.
- Ribbon windows to provide a greater amount of light and ventilation.
- Facades designed freely as a skin and not as a load bearing element.
Entry to the home is by way of a ramp that brings one up and into the space from the ground floor. This is thought to be more akin to a stroll, intending a landscape experience as one enters the house rather than an urban solution.
The open plan includes a glass wall that creates ambiguity between the courtyard garden and the interior spaces. Note that the courtyard glass panel on the right is in fact a sliding glass panel that, when opened, create a freedom of movement and further disrupts the distinction between interior and exterior space.
The four exterior walls create a formal envelope for defining and framing space to the interior. Within those walls, Le Corbusier abstracted classical primary forms to create interventions according to his aesthetic judgement, not structural limitations. This winding stair created an element that unified spaces from the ground floor to the roof-top solarium. Beautiful as they are, these were ostensibly “servants” stairs.
The ramp continues the sense of strolling from the courtyard to the roof-top solarium. This weaves the interior circulation to the exterior spaces, creating an organic experience of movement through the garden spaces which are never separate from the house.
The villa never waivers from an understanding of the house as a machine nor is it a harsh imposition on nature and landscape. Rather, Le Corbusier develops a nuanced interplay, where one is never fully absorbed by either nature or machine.
One of Le Corbusier’s greatest works, this building represents his challenge to the conventions of architecture as they were handed to him. The Villa Savoye has been an inspiration to architects and has influenced them for generations.