Beautiful Villa Savoye

As a monument to modernism, the building possesses a poetry and sensitivity full of idealism. The careful composition of living space and intention to harness natural light, not to mention the building’s iconic aesthetic, still define modern architecture.

villasavoye_landscapeThe Villa Savoye, built in 1929 in Poissy, a rural area outside Paris, was Le Corbusier’s answer to a French country house. Given relatively few constraints by the Savoye family, Le Corbusier designed a building to embody the architectural theory he had evolved in practice and in his book, Towards an Architecture 1923. He was inspired by both the classical forms of ancient Greek architecture and the modern technologies that were shaping the world such as automobiles, airplanes and ocean liners.

villasavoye_landscape2.jpgThis project was the last in a series of private homes known as the ‘white villas’ built by Le Corbusier and his cousin and partner Pierre Jeanneret, which introduced a new form of luxury in which space itself, and its capacity for leisure, were the valuable commodities.

Of these, The Villa Savoye perhaps best embodies Le Corbusier’s architectural manifesto, the five points of architecture. The first, pilotis – slender pillars which raise the building off the ground, opening up more space for gardens and cars, made possible the second, a façade free of its usual load bearing function. Walls were no longer supporting structures but ‘membranes.’ This allowed the unimpaired design of the third, an open plan interior, and the fourth, ribbon windows to flood the interior with maximum light and to illuminate it evenly. A sliding window system patented by Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret was intended to offer superior ventilation, as well as give access to the fifth, a flat roof which could serve as a terrace. A curved solarium crowns the structure, the brightest increment in the layered design. This symbiotic relationship of these five features gives some insight into what could otherwise be a somewhat alienating notion of Le Corbusier’s, the famous concept of a house as ‘a machine for living.’

villasavoye_landscape3-outdoor.jpgUnfortunately the Villa Savoye presented its residents with its own host of problems, despite its pioneering design. Each autumn, as the windows ushered in a warm vista of seasonal colour, the family would write repeatedly to Le Courbusier, begging him to make ‘habitable,’ what proved to be a damp and chilly building. They complained of ‘raining’ in the hall, on the ramp and in the bathroom. The loud drumming of rain on the bathroom skylight kept them awake at night, heat escaped through the long stretches of glazing and the heating system was both insufficient and a further cause of flooding.

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Much of this was perhaps due to the fact that the technology involved was not fully developed at the time. As a monument to Modernism, the building possesses a poetry and sensitivity full of idealism. The careful composition of living space and intention to harness natural light, not to mention the building’s iconic aesthetic, still define modern architecture. Nonetheless, the discomforts they had suffered ultimately led the Savoye family to decide against restoring the property after the 2nd World War, when it was seized by German forces. About to be demolished by the local authorities to make way for a school, the building was rescued by architects and academics including Le Corbusier himself. Now a museum, restored closely to its original state, Villa Savoye is one of 17 of Le Corbusier’s buildings declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Credit: readcereal.com/

Beautiful Bauhaus

Most people attribute Germany’s Bauhaus
school, founded by Walter Gropius,with being
all about minimalist design, paring down
architecture to its most non-essential elements
whilst being beautiful at the same time.
What is overlooked is the fantastical costume
parties of the 1920s. Not only were they good
at designing furniture and everything else in
between, their costumes were just as sculptural
and flamboyant. The Bauhaus shindigs were
outright competitive. Imagine dancing around
in one of these with Wassily Kandinsky,
Paul Klee, Piet Mondrian, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy,
Mies van der Rohe and Marcel Breuer.

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Bauhaus costumes by Oskar Schlemmer (1925)
Photos by Karl Grill via The Charnel-House

The parties began as improvisational events,
but later grew into large-scale productions
with costumes and sets made by the school’s
stage workshop. There was often a theme to
the evenings. One party was called Beard, Nose,
and Heart, and attendees were instructed t
show up in clothing that was two-thirds white,
and one-third spotted, checked or striped.
However, it’s generally agreed that the
apotheosis of the Bauhaus’ costumed revelry
was the Metal Party of 1929, where guests
donned costumes made from tin foil, frying
pans, and spoons. Attendees entered that
party by sliding down a chute into one of
several rooms filled with silver balls.

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Bauhaus costumes by Oskar Schlemmer (1925)
Photos by Karl Grill via The Charnel-House

 

 

Beautiful Architect

The Invisible Architect of Invisible Architecture

At the height of his popularity, R. Buckminster Fuller,
the visionary inventor best known as the father of the
geodesic dome, was on a mission. Fuller repeatedly
referred to his great friend, the architect Knud Lonberg-Holm
—a “really great architect of the Nysky (New York skyscraper)
age”—whom Fuller said “has been completely unrecognized
and unsung,” and whose “scientific foresight and design
competence are largely responsible for the present world
around the state of advancement of the building arts.”
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Knud Lonberg-Holm (1895-1972),
an overlooked but highly influential
Modernist architect, photographer,
and pioneer of information design,
is the subject of an exhibition at the
Ubu Gallery in New York City,
through August 1, 2014.

I stumbled upon a fascinating article about
the architect Lonberg-Holm. He is one of the
most overlooked yet influential architects
of the 20th century.  Knud Lonberg-Holm
told Buckminster Fuller that “the really great
architect will be the architect who produces
the invisible house where you don’t see roofs
or walls,” Fuller explained in House & Garden.
“I’ve thought about this, thought about  it a lot,
the ultimately invisible house—doing more with
less and finally coming to nothingness.”
Lonberg-Holm’s modernity and exquisite
techniques were well ahead of his time.

Read the fascinating article here.

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Chicago Tribune Tower
This design of a side elevation for the 1922 Chicago

Tribune Tower competition, by Lonberg-Holm,
favored a functional composition that was devoid
of historical styles. It featured an abstract,
black-and-white pattern to articulate its frame and a
vertical sign spelling “Tribune” in large block letters,
flanked by two round lamps reminiscent of automobile
headlights. Lonberg-Holm never submitted his entry
for the competition, but it was published in a number
of books by avant-garde architects like Le Corbusier,
Walter Gropius, and J.P.P. Oud.

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Radio Broadcasting Station, Detroit
This design, ca. 1925, was included in the landmark

1927 Machine Age exhibition—advertised as “the
first International Exposition of Architecture to be
held in America.” The New Yorker critic Muriel Draper
reviewed the project and wrote: “The delicacy and
exquisite technique of execution shown in the plans may
have much to do with it, but a glass tower with a visibly
spiralling staircase took me straight up in the air while
the simple, solid proportions of the building itself kept
my feet on the earth. Pleasant sensation.”

 

Beautiful People

March 20, 1916 Albert Einstein published
his Theory of Relativity.
Einstein said: “When you are courting a
nice girl, an hour seems like a second.
When you sit on a red-hot cinder,
a second seems like an hour.
That’s relativity.”

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Le Corbusier and Albert Einstein, 1946