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Moving Through Le Corbusier’s Villa Savoye

Moving Through Le Corbusier’s Villa Savoye

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Published by Joseph Nechvatal
on Le Corbusier’s Villa Savoye
on Le Corbusier’s Villa Savoye

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Published by: Joseph Nechvatal on Jul 17, 2014
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07/17/2014

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Visit to Le Corbusier’s Villa Savoye
Joseph NechvatalPublished as
Moving Through Le Corbusier 
!   
s Villa Savoye
at Hyperallergichttp://hyperallergic.com/138221/moving-through-le-corbusiers-villa-savoye/ 
I tend to prefer my European gesamtkunstwerk interior spaces lush,flamboyantly mannerist, funny, obscurantist or noisy. For the most part, I am
 
attracted to ossuariums, Rococo and Neo-Rococo spaces, and the Art Nouveauinterior spaces of Antoni Gaudí, Victor Horta and Henry Van de Velde. WhatI like about these kinds of whimsical spaces is their concern with effluvium-feminine forms, and the swirling, tendril-derived patterns that are appliedthroughout the space in frivolous spirit. For example, High Art Nouveau'sforemost feature is an emphasis upon ornamental value distributed throughoutan entire space. As a result the entire space might be experienced as swaying, bending, floating, arching, smoking, curling, throbbing, dripping, melting,aching, writhing.A case in point was Horta's idea to construct lyrically enchanting space out of whimsical arabesques (noodles, whiplashes and eels) that is particularlyevident in his 1900 Maison Personnelle (personal home) that I visited at 23-25, rue Américaine, in Brussels. It is one of the most exquisite Art Nouveau buildings in the world and open to the public. Here an immersive fin-de-sièclemilieu is achieved through a warped suppleness of space created through thin,windblown, and whip-lashed lines that disposed me to the feelings of spriteunderwater hair and, of course, writhing seaweed.This kind of lyrical sweep is an experience we tend not to attribute toModernism, but we can, if we swap the ornamental for the non-ornamentallyhomogeneousness. In that case, there is the same over-all consistency of shaped gesamtkunstwerk style shared with Horta-like excessiveness that I amso keen on.Recently, I experienced just such a gesamtkunstwerk aesthetic pleasure(white, Euclidean, minimal) with a visit to Poissy-sur-Seine (a suburb near Paris) to see Charles-Édouard Jeanneret’s aka Le Corbusier’s masterpieceVilla Savoye (1
 
9
 
3
 
0). It is one of the most famous houses of the modernmovement in architecture, created with associate Pierre Jeanneret, a Swiss
 
architect, designer and cousin of Le Corbusier. To prepare for building it, they published a manifesto entitled “Five Points to a New Architecture” (1926) thatserved as the architectural guidelines for the aesthetic of the villa and so became a representation of their aesthetic ideology: to create a house whichwould be a
machine a habiter 
 (a machine for living (in)).This building (a white b
 
o
 
x
 
o
 
n
 
stilts) emerged from Art Deco principles thatoriginated in France in 1908 and reached its zenith in 1925. In the mid-1920s,Art Deco dominated the stylistic gesamtkunstwerk ideals of architecture anddomestic interior design. However a change was soon heralded by LeCorbusier's
 Pavillon de I'Esprit Nouveau
 which he presented at the Paris 1925
 Exposition Internationales des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes
 -specifically the lean artist's studio interior he exhibited in conjunction with theartist/theoretician Amédée Ozenfant and through his theoretical writings “Versune Architecture” (1923) which maintained gesamtkunstwerk ideals bydefining architecture as
total concept 
.The heightening of perceptual sensitivity experienced through
total concept 
 atVilla Savoye encourages a sense of unified delectation, as the churned blockyforms define the space and are picked up in the shapes of the stairs andfurniture. Consequently, it collides high art complexity with simplicity.The tonal and syntactic surfaces are of course white and spare with their logical trajectories seemingly resolved. And yet there are visual arguments-within-arguments to be discerned behind the axiomatic, as Villa Savoyeembodies and deepens the multiple ramifications of a phrase easily (and aptly)applied to describe it:
deceptively easy
. In referring to something asdeceptively easy, it is implied that to be
merely easy
 would be deficient, andthat difficulty has inherent value.

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