Long ago in a land far away, back when I was in college, I took a course on architectural history. And though I've forgotten quite a bit about the things I studied back then, I have never forgotten the images of the Villa Savoye, designed by Le Corbusier.
Finally yesterday, I had my chance to see it in person. I had some trepidation about road conditions in the Yvelines, the department west of Paris where the house is located, but in fact, once we escaped the traffic around Paris, the autoroute and local roads were clear and dry as a bone. And then when we entered the grounds, my heart sunk a bit. "That's it?," I thought. "That insignficant white box?" I was feeling particularly bad since it was at my suggestion that our group of 12 had made the trip.
Once inside, in the care of a charming and well-spoken architecture student, my fears dissipated. The interiors seemed twice the size I'd expected from the exterior. And though the site began deteriorating almost from the minute it was completed in 1928, the sense of innovation and modernity remains firmly in place. The open plan, ribbon windows, and roof garden all create a sense of light and airiness that was inviting, even on cold gray December day.
Le Corbusier's "box in the air" now sits in a park one seventh the size of the original and on all sides, it's now hemmed in by ugly apartment blocks. The picture window on the roof terrace now frames several factories and industrial parks. Still, if you've got the time to make the trek out to Poissy (about 20 minutes by car from La Defense), it's well worth the visit.
|Looking from the salon out to the hanging garden. In nice weather, you can roll back the window separating inside from outside. The chairs are copies of a Le Corbusier design.|
The Villa Savoye, a national monument, is located in Poissy, some 33 kilometers northwest of Paris.