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ART HISTORY - Le Corbusier's Villa Savoye at Poissy

Le Corbusier's Villa Savoye at Poissy

Le Corbusier's Villa Savoye at PoissyThe masterpiece among Le Corbusier's early houses was the Villa Savoye at Poissy, thirty miles from Paris. Along with Mies's German Pavilion, the Villa Savoye is generally regarded as a paradigm of the International Style. The three-bedroom house, beautifully sited in an open field, is almost a square in plan, with the upper living area supported on delicate piers or pilotis. The enclosed ground level has a curved-glass end wall containing garage and service functions, set under the hovering second storey. The Savoye family, arriving from Paris, would drive right under the house - the curve of the ground floor was determined by the radius of a car. Although today's suburban homes are loosely designed around the automobile, in 1929 this design concept was based on the notion of the car as the ultimate machine and the idea that the approach up to and through the house carried ceremonial significance.

In the main living area on the second level, the architect has brilliantly demonstrated his aim of integrating inside and outside space. The rooms open on a terrace, which is protected by half walls or windbreaks above horizontal openings that continue the long, horizontal line of the strip windows. The horizontal elements are tied together in sections by a central ramp that moves through each level and in- and out-of-doors. The complex of volumes and planes in the Villa Savoye relate to Le Corbusier's own Purist painting. One historian has written of this building, "The visitor wandering through the interiors might glimpse cylindrical forms through layers of semi-reflecting glass and sense how Cubist ambiguities enlivened the play of surfaces: it was like entering the fantasy world behind the picture plane of a Purist still life."

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