Earlier Age Villa Savoye Cultural Studies Essay
Module Title: DESN22076 Architecture in Context 2
Module Tutor: Guillermo Garma Montiel
Le Corbusier is one of the most influential architects of the 20th century; his work (writings, buildings and ideas) defined the work of architects across the world. In his post-World War II architecture, especially at Chandigarh, we observe a marked departure in design approach from Villa Savoye (1929). This essay should analyse, discuss and assess with examples the validity of this statement.
Le Corbusier is possibly considered as one of the most important architects of the 20th century. He was a Swiss born in 1887, then moved to France and lived there for the rest of his life. We may call Le Corbusier an architect, an urban planner, a writer and even a famous painter. Not only through his significantly impressive buildings such as Villa Savoye, his books and art works also influence the architects around the world. His architecture rules and the philosophy in his writing are major influences we could recognize in many buildings and works of other architects who were inspired by Le Corbusier. Among his ideas, ‘5 Points of a New Architecture’ have a strong impact on architecture revolution. After World War II, there is a shift in his architecture trend, Chandigarh as an example. Architects at that time could observe a different approach in his design, which showed an important change among Le Corbusier’s earlier works. This essay will focus on analysis his works: Villa Savoye and Chandigarh, how the changes applied from the earlier work to the later work.
Earlier Age - Villa Savoye
Le Corbusier’s Villa Savoye is an ideal work for new architecture with ‘white, homogeneous, machine-made form’, it is a concrete frame painted in white color. (Frampton, 2007, p.248).
The young Le Corbusier at age 30 – 50 has a strong feeling for primary form. He believed that the modern building should base on geometry – "Geometry is the language of man." (Hervé, 1970, P.68) Villa Savoye is also a popular work that represents the primary form idea during his early age. William Curtis mentioned this work as an ‘industrial extension of Laugier’s first typology" (Curtis, 1999, p.43)
During this early age, Le Corbusier and his friend Maz du Bois come up with two ideas that lead to the development of his design throughout 1920s – the Hennebique frame as Maison Dom-Ino – later become the ideal structure for many of his house designs in 1935. (Frampton, 2007, p.151) Le Corbusier thought of Dom-Ino as ‘a piece of equipment’, a typical design. This could be a mass production houses, they are all mass designs, which are just beautiful. (Frampton, 2007, p.152 – 153).
Being mentioned as a representative of Le Corbusier’s work in the early stage, Villa Savoye is a recognizable international style building for modernism period which apply his ‘5 Points of a New Architecture’. Cresti. C (1970, pp.23 – 26) mentioned in his book that the internal forces reinforced this building structure; this makes the external environment to be balanced with the internal forces without the need of outside walls – the old approach in architecture. Also, the ground floor, the middle zone and the roof garden are understood at three stages of life, these three moments meet each other at the best point in his design. These ‘5 Points of a New Architecture’ play a pioneer role in changing the current approach in architecture at that time to modernism architecture. These points brought new perspectives to architecture; they are the new way for architects to solve many problems in design at that time. Many successful architecture works are influenced and based on Le Corbusier’s rule. (Cresti, 1970, p.22) After Le Corbusier, the whole architecture trend during this time applies these points, exterior walls as well as windows design and structure were changed because of the supporting columns in the buildings.
Villa Savoye is the first generation that broke the original structure. Before that, spaces in buildings are mainly restricted by distance between columns. Architects mainly concern about the structure rather than space. The revolution of new approach using concrete and steel broke this tradition law. However, the use of concrete is mostly selected and adopted by considering the function at that time. The old structural bases are known as old-fashioned. The new bases that "have constituted the logical support" that would be the new architecture (Hervé, 1970, p.66). Le Corbusier gave architecture at that time a new approach; he used the characteristic of concrete to create space. The original idea of the Five Points and the Villa Savoye was mentioned in Von Moos. S and Ruegg. A’s book (2002): Challuy was the one who introduced Le Corbusier the architectural elements, how the floors were linked and created. The ‘sloping site being echoed’ and the ‘top floor becoming point of entry’ was possibly the concept brining Le Corbusier works for Villa Savoye.
Using concrete makes the design more flexible. The size and position of many major elements such as windows, doors, staircases become various. Based on that, the three points: free façade, open plan and horizontal windows were created. His final point, the roof garden was created by his own feeling and study. It was an idea that combines the building with the nature it stays in. I would be a logical yet beautiful point. (Fishman, 1977, p.171). Le Corbusier often makes use of light and shadow to create space. The horizontal window in Villa Savoye building just make a big open on wall and the habitants now can enjoy the light and shadow. Le Corbusier considered light and shadow as ‘the loudspeakers of architecture of truth". (Hervé, 1970, p.68)
Post-World War II – Chandigarh
War could be known as one of the direct factors that influence architecture immediately. The social changes after the war bring significant change in architecture style. Demographic expansion, industrialization, economic, progression of science and technology as well as the new urban areas is the main issues that the war influences architecture in overall. (Cresti, 1970, p.17) Le Corbusier’s architecture style was changed after World War II as well. It is not difficult to find out that there is a big shift in his late design style in many of his works during this time, for example, Chandigarh, La Tourette and Notre Dame du Haut.
Being mentioned in Coleman book (2005, p.92), Le Corbusier during his post-World War II period, had his work influenced by ‘social content and social structure’. This is totally different from formalist and normal visual approach. He uses the human body as the order and his theory was based on the human body structure as well. Also between the age 50-65, his designs emphasized more on nature elements of housing unit that are: sun, space and greenness. (Hervé, 1970, p.100)
In the interview with Tadao Ando, which was written down by Auping M. (2002, p.17, p.75), he discussed his understanding about Le Corbusier work – La Tourette – a famous building in post-World War II period. This building was always considered as a heavy design with the dominant of concrete. The material with its design leads to a lot of discussion. Tadao said after the ‘white period’ – which most building and villas of Le Corbusier were painted in white – Le Corbusier started using brick and concrete texture for his designs in order to reveal a new approach in architecture which is more abstract. Tadao compared La Tourette with ‘a sculpture of light’. After the Ward, Le Corbusier started using contrasting materials as his trend in building design. This shift to natural texture of materials becomes a new approach for surface style. (Frampton, 2007, p.225).
Chandigarh is one of his successful in design as well as urban planning. During this time, he actually shifted his style from purism to a new brutalism, which is the use of brutal material such as raw concrete.1 Since he played material as a single and noble task of the architect, which can made them useful. (Hervé, 1970, p.114) Chandigarh is also considered as a sculpture mixed with the concrete texture. This is an impressive artwork that differs from the local conditions and building styles in India. Among all his works during this period, Chandigarh could be one of the most representative works with a big shift comparing to the early age’s works. The design of Chandigarh at that time was expected to be the capital of Punjab – the symbol of new India. This could lead for the expectation of impression and revolution in architecture design. It was mentioned that Chandigarh was originally ‘motopian’ suburbia by Albert Mayer before it was handed to Le Corbusier. (Frampton, 2007, p.230) Since 1948, Le Corbusier has been obsessed by the idea of the "Open Hand". He wanted to place it in Chandigarh design, at the end of the ‘Capital’. He thought that when modern world reached the limitless intellectual and material riches, the design would show an "Open Hand" to receive and to give. (Hervé, 1970, p.39) The "Open Hand" for Le Corbusier is a sign of peace and reconciliation. For this, he is really want to carried it in his subconscious for many years, and "come into existence in order to provide a testimony of harmony". (Hervé, 1970, p.62) Le Corbusier himself said that the second constituent elements of Chandigarh and its sub-divisions do not normally follow traditional rules, numbers but become a simple yet childish and impressive arithmetic. (Le Corbusier, 1958, p.171 – 173) Le Corbusier actually put lot of his knowledge and feeling in Chandigarh building. Although in his early age, he created the Five Points rules as well as many other rationales, it seems like he put much more sudden inspiration for his work during this later period. He said that Chandigarh would be a ‘geometrical event’, a ‘sculpture of intellect’, not simply a city for high levels people with the walls and neighbors surrounding around. (Le Corbusier, 1958, p.215)
As mentioned before, Le Corbusier uses the human body as the order and his theory and design are also based on human body as well. From Chandigarh, he works with human body and the importance of human body. He hold a wooden human body, modulor, with Chandigarh site plan when he working on the urban planning. (Le Corbusier, 1958, p.31-32)
Le Corbusier mentioned in his own book about his designs during this period as: "I have spent my life drawing palaces that were to be the houses of men; building houses that are palaces. Our last invention has been to equip the Palace of the Ministries in the Capitol of Chandigarh and the Convent of La Tourette at Lyons with glazed panels called ‘musical’, the most rational solution of modern glasswork, governed by a rule which for a long time past has governed music." (Le Corbusier, 1958, p.321)
During the design in Chandigarh, it seems that the city planning and the society have a huge conflict. Le Corbusier was allowed to plan the city based on his rules and principles; these principles also give the thoughts about advanced industrial civilizations. "The great highways of Chandigarh are empty of traffic; the city itself has become a group of almost isolated villages, which occupy odd corners in the ground plan. Only the government center – a magnificent ensemble of Palace of Justice, Assembly Hall, and Secretariat – functions as planned." (Fishman, Robert, 1977, p. 254) Although Chandigarh is one of the biggest successes in his career, it is probably that the design fulfills its task to become a ‘masterpiece’, rather than serve the society it was built in.
There was none of any ideas during art history that include building that was built of coarse raw concrete. Strength, structure and wind-bracing could be the important issues for Chandigarh design to be mentioned about. The beauty this design brings could be called a new beauty. There is a contact with the joys in Hindu principles: "the fraternity of the relations between cosmos and living beings: stars, nature, sacred animals, birds, monkeys and cows, and in the village the children, the adults, and the active old people, the lagoon and the mango trees; everything is present and smiles, poor but proportioned." (Hervé, Lucien, 1970, p.37)
During his successful career, Le Corbusier’s works can be divided into two main period which we could see a recognizable shift between the two. The first period is "white period". This could be considered as his ‘early age’. Works during this time mostly applied the principles of Five Points of New Architecture – possibly his most influential architectural rules. The second period is his ‘later age’. Many works were mixed the ‘early age’ works with the texture and sculptural mind. The shift between that two was such a major departure that makes us difficult to identify all of them from the same person – Le Corbusier. However, the modulor and proportion that could be the identification for his works. For example, we can see the application of proportion on elevations of Villa Savoye(Image 4) and urban planning and Chandigarh(Image 5) as well.
Villa Savoye is a well-order, clear and free combination of space. The flexibility in many elements but still follow his primary form makes this building carried out most his ‘Five Points of New Architecture’ rules. There are a lot of rationales in his early age’s work. However, after post-World War II, we could see that Le Corbusier seems to put more feeling into his work, not purely following the rules but become more impressive design with his own feeling.
No matter the big shift, there is still the common point between his early works and post-World War II works. The Five Points rules were applied in the works in both periods that make these rules become so distinctive. For example, we can still see the pilotis, free façade, roof garden and free plan in his post-World War II works, La Tourette. However, the only difference in his work is his feeling to be added in, such as, "Open Hand" in Chandigarh and "Duck", "Hat" in Notre Dame du Haut that make his works more sculptural rather than functional as his early age’s works.