Design Approach From Villa Savoye Cultural Studies Essay

Le Corbusier, Charles-Edouard Jeanneret-Gris (1887-1965) is a Swiss- French architect that not only is an influential teacher, but a writer in architecture especially the modern and international styles.

His major works on town planning and purist visions have allowed him to express his style and theories for a new Architecture. His advancement to traditions and theories have also help mold and shape living spaces for inhabitant, which has built his reputation as one of the most significant architects.

Le Corbusier has also published inspirational articles and books of architecture such as L’Esprit Nouveau, Vers une architecture (Towards a new Architecture) 1923 and Urbanisme of 1925.

‘In his writing Le Corbusier defined architecture as a play of masses brought together in light, and advocated that buildings should be as practically constructed as a modern machine’- (CURL 2006, 199) In addition, Le Corbusier admired most were ocean liners, and his architecture spoke of sun and wind and the sea.

However In his book Vers une architecture, reading the latter part of the book there seems to be a ‘fundamental split between engineering and Architecture’ (Frampton 2001)

Villa Savoye Poissy, (1928-30) and Chandigarh (1953-1963), has been included in discussion as a catalogue of his famous works. Including the design principles as well as structure and styles. Whether it shows a marked departure, this essay will analyse and discuss the differences and similarities between the two debated building designs.

Villa Savoye, Poissy (1928-30)

The first of his buildings in discussion is Villa Savoye, it was built as a ’weekend house in the then leafy Paris suburb of Poissy France), the Villa Savoye represents the culmination of Le Corbusier’s Purist style of the 1920’s.’ (Weston, Key Buildings of the Twentieth Century (Plans, Sections and Elevations) 2004, 62) It is predominantly one of Le Corbusier’s influential works at the time. Villa Savoye was published in Vers Une architecture (towards a New Architecture) 1923. ‘The book became the most significant summary statement of the ideals of the modernist movement to appear since World War 1.‘ (Francis D.K. Ching 2011, 720)

Spatially, the design demonstrated the full possibilities of concrete frame construction, which Le Corbusier had proclaimed as the ‘Five Points of a New Architecture’ The first being the columns (he called them pilotis) raise the house in the air, freeing the ground for people and vehicles. The second a roof garden on the flat roof replaces the ground lost by development. The third, extending the pilotis through as a structural frame enables partition walls to be freely arranged in what he called the plan libre, or free plan. The forth, disposing window as required by the interior creates a free façade. Finally the fifth, long horizontal windows- fenetres en longueuer or ribbon windows, which gives a more even distribution of light

(Weston, Key Buildings of the Twentieth Century (Plans, Sections and Elevations) 2004)

‘as well as the increasing availability of mass-produced architectural elements. They also allowed the architect to work with pragmatic forms. The idea of the pilotis was to remain with Le Corbusier throughout his career. Inspired by Rousseauesque thinking that invested undisturbed nature with an ideal of plenitude, Le Corbusier’s pilotis were meant to liberate the land from the oppression of a building that interrupted its flow and rhythm.’

(Francis D.K. Ching 2011, 720)

Le Corbusier considered a lot when designing villa Savoye, the aesthetic quality as well as the spatial awareness. The work is a designed to embody modernism. He considered the finest touches of the Savoye ‘to present the bounding surfaces as ‘stretched planes and not gravity-bound supporting walls, they were made as thin as possible and designed to create an unbroken effect. … and for placing the window frames at the outer rather than inner edge of the walls, so that the glass becomes part of the surface.‘ (Weston, Materials, Form and Architecture 2003, 162)

‘Expressed by ribbon window- is used to suggest pervasive movement, upward and outward, towards the landscape and the sky, towards nature.’ (Weston, Key Buildings of the Twentieth Century (Plans, Sections and Elevations) 2004, 62)

‘ The villa Savoye epitomizes the Modernist ideal of spatial richness contained by taut surfaces.’ (Weston, Materials, Form and Architecture 2003, 162)

‘The materials were also considered, ‘The use of reinforced concrete and primary materials like iron and glass, …and the use of pure colors are the distinctive traits of their new technical, typological, and formal language, represented in an emblematic way by the villa Savoye (1928-31), which had a profound influence on entire generations or architects’ (Demartini 2007, 398)

As well as materials, functions were considered important to Le Corbusier especially in the time of advancement and machinery. The objective was made to whether it is functional. The ramp is therefore considered in his design.

‘The ramp reverses directions and ends on the roof, where a freestanding wall with a single window self-consciously frames the landscape. Although Le Corbusier celebrated the automobile, he also designed the building as a promenade with experiences unfolding at every turn. (Francis D.K. Ching 2011, 720)

During the age of the art and craft movement, this had effected the whole of Europe, but is also seen in Villa Savoye. The aesthetic consideration to Villa Savoye seem to convey minimalistic and purist ideals, there is little décor on the facades, only horizontal window to allow fresh air which can be argued are for functional purposes. The white rendering used can be seen as simple and sleek.

Le Corbusier’s earlier villas involving Pessac was built in the 1920’s in a town near Bordeaux, France. Le Corbusier designed and built a community, this involved small and intimate scales of standardized houses, this earlier work showed signs of his early modernism work. It was built as an experimental ‘workers’ housing, with his theme’ a machine for living in’. Based on his five principles, geometric forms, and his fond of reinforced concrete structures, he built a row of residential villas in France.

His Buildings are timeless, ‘Le Corbusier’s Purist villas, at least in the medium term, but are almost equally incapable of tolerating wear, or the patching and changes over time through which cities have traditionally disassembled…’ (Weston, Materials, Form and Architecture 2003, 119)

Following World War II, the whole of Europe and indeed the world had been affected. In 1928, the international Congress of Modern Architecture best known as ‘CIAM’ was founded in Switzerland, the meetings held ‘basic new elements of a new approach to Architecture and Urbanism, it also introduced the basic elements to design of the individual dwelling and the rejection of the 19th century tenement city.’ (Mumford 2009, 2)

It was also organized to effectively deal with the effected circumstances deflected on Germany/Europe in the 2nd world War. Le Corbusier was deeply influenced by the congress and had a valuable part to play in the renewal of new cities and buildings across Europe.

Le Corbusier’s urban planning projects, Plan Voisin was a vision he had for the capital of France he drew plans to terminate the entire north bank of the seine to give way to his vision of the Ville Contemporaries,’ splitting into functional zones, 24 glass towers would be built in the middle. His revolutionary style of demolishing the past proved to be ineffective and rejected by France.

‘It turns it’s back on tradition. It maximizes light and spaces to express the liberation of modern age.’- (Dietsch 2002, 270)

Chandigarh, India (1951-63)

The second of his buildings to be discussed is The Parliament Building, Chandigarh in India built in 1951-63

‘After India attained independence in 1947 it was divided in two countries along religious lines, resulting in the creation of the new Islamic nation Pakistan. In that division, the indian state Punjab lost its capital Lahore, to Pakistan, so Jawaharlal Nehru, the first prime minister of independent india, decided to construct a new state capital in Chandigarh…he wanted Chandigarh to be a city unfettered by the traditions of the past, and a symbol of the nation’s faith in the future. ‘ (Francis D.K. Ching 2011, 758)

In 1951, Le Corbusier was appointed to prepare a plan for the new Islamic state of Pakistan. Albert Mayer an American town planner (partner and cousin) assisted Le Corbusier. Mayer’s ideas consisted the City beautiful movement, with superblocks accessed by gently curving roads, he already prepared the urban plans for the city along with British architects Jane Drew and Maxwell Fry.

The design was purpose built for a new city that needed to accompany refugees but to also provide administrative seats for the newly formed government of Punjab. ‘Placed symbolically at it head was a ‘Capitol’ of government buildings: the Governor’s Palace, the Parliament (or Assembly)(1955-1960) Building, the High court (1952-1956) and the Secretariat. (1952-1960)’ (Weston, Key Buildings of the Twentieth Century (Plans, Sections and Elevations) 2004, 110) These buildings were sort to connect modern and ancient traditions.

Le Corbusier had prepared for the design of these buildings, ‘Le Corbusier studied the verandahs, exotic roofs capes and use of water found in Mogul architecture. These local traditions were then fused with ideas drawn from Western Classicism and from his own, intensely personal fascination with such potentially universal themes as the hydrologic and solar cycles that govern the planet.’

(Weston, Key Buildings of the Twentieth Century (Plans, Sections and Elevations) 2004, 110)

‘within this reality, the urbanist must choose between two tendencies, to extend or to contract the city. If the latter course is chosen, concrete and steel must be used to transmit the ‘essential joys: the sky, trees and light.’ (Mumford 2009, 11)

Most of the construction was made of load-bearing exposed brick walls, accented by random rubble-stone porticoes and concrete window protectors, plastered and painted white. (Francis D.K. Ching 2011, 758)

The materials also show symbolism,

‘built several gigantic public buildings (using excessively heavy, oversized, chunky, raw concrete….. attempts to create Monumentality.’ (CURL 2006, 201)

Built entirely of betron brut, rendered all the more rugged by the handwork involved realizing it in India, the Chandigarh capitol buildings had almost from their moment of completion, something of the quality of ruins, majestic and timeless…but once inside you discover an unexpectedly cool, calm world… Slendor in concrete columns, smooth and dense like stone,’ (Weston, Key Buildings of the Twentieth Century (Plans, Sections and Elevations) 2004, 110)

Within the design of Chandigarh brings symbolism, The Open Hand stands as the material symbol of the city's philosophy, it is open to receive the created riches but is also open to spread them to its people’

‘Within these sectors, Le Corbusier wanted to design multistory residential units (perhaps like those in Brasilia or in his Unites d’Habitations, the first of which had just been constructed in Marseilles), but was later dismissed by the officers in charge of the project who were devoted to a low-rise suburban image (Francis D.K. Ching 2011, 758)

Le Corbusier took ideas he had from the CIAM meetings such as his ‘functional city’ which applied after the war and the CIAM’ four functions’ of dwelling, work, transportation and recreation’ the function city, ‘the concept which would remain central to CIAM for much of its later history and which would provide the basis for much post war planning’ (Mumford 2009, 7)

Le Corbusier talked about his biological elements that would impact on design’ To maintain intellectual life, the city must also ensure for the human body the biological elements of air, sunlight and space.’ (Mumford 2009, 12)

In his CIAM 4 meeting Le Corbusier discussed that ‘to create space for recreation, he argued parts of the existing city must be demolished even as ‘old things must be respected.’ (Mumford 2009, 12)

In addition he argued towards an urbanist approach to design’ ‘make cities more harmonious and useful.’ It must take into account geographical and topographical circumstances as well as particular economic and political situation to develop plans for development that should be precise but not rigid…. These plans could serves as guides for all the problems of the reorganization of modern cities’ (Mumford 2009, 14)

Furthermore, when discussing design approaches it is important to know the context and the history behind both buildings, Villa Savoye, built in France Poissy, the suburbs of France. One is designed in a private setting while the other made public. Villa Savoye was designed to be an influential piece, to portray modernism and international style. However, The parliament in Chandigarh was designed for representation of the republic state, the belief of overcoming struggle and searching for their independence. Le Corbusier designed the building as a monument for the city.

The scale is also a difference, Le Corbusier designed an urban city plan for Chandigarh compared to a weekday house in the poissy France. The building of Chandigarh had more political stance than the Villa Savoye.

There is a large amount of symbolism behind both buildings.

The Open Hand in Chandigarh stands as the material symbol of the city's philosophy. While the Villa Savoye symbolizes the modernization of spaces and functions. ’The narrow windows on the facades were designed to let light through.’

‘he particularly like reinforced concrete because of the way it could be molded into any shape he wanted, and then appreciated by a building user when seen for different angles.’ (Brittain-Catlin 2008, 152)

Both buildings can be argued to have took inspiration from Le Corbusier’s earlier travels to the Pantheon, the study of light, geometric structures and proportions in his earlier sketches where his architectural visions started to take shape.

This allowed the creation of an ideal structure, which was indeed timeless in beauty but also perfect in proportion. He tested himself even more to find a universal structure for the use of all people

It is argued that during the cause of the war and the formation of the CIAM, Le Corbusier had changed aesthetic principles to design. Designing with the ‘functional city’ in mind, unfortunately it shows that his design were more theoretical than practical for the human living conditions.

‘Modern town planning comes to birth with a new architecture, he (Le Corbusier) wrote in his book simply Urbansime.’ By this immense step in evolution, so brutal and so overwhelming we burn our bridges and break with the past.

It is also said, ‘His personal architecture style changed dramatically several times becoming inconsistent with his declared approach (Brittain-Catlin 2008, 151)

In conclusion, both designs are timeless and authentic of its original form and design. It can be argued that both were designed for functional properties, Le Corbusier undoubtedly considered the design in response to the setting. Whether it is a marked response, it can be argued that this statement is true in the sense, there is a style difference between the two buildings, One is portrayed in the term Modernism and the other Monumentality, there is a distinct difference in terms of material used and the symbolism behind both buildings. But most obviously a distinction between style and approach this can be argued had been influenced by his post world, war II architecture.