© Fabulorum. José Medio

Tucked away at the bottom of a cul-de-sac in the 16th arrondisement of Paris, stands villa La Roche, an early example of the private residences designed by Le Corbusier for wealthy patrons. Unlike the floating sensation that Villa Savoye reveals, this construction did not benefit from extensive grounds to breathe.

It consists of two dwellings forming an organic whole: one section devised for the Swiss banker and collector, Edouard La Roche, and a second one for the architect’s brother, Albert Jeanneret. Only the first one can be visited, while the second houses the offices of the Le Corbusier Foundation.

The bare and geometrical spaces convey a strong belief in architecture as a purified form of expression. One needs to be reminded that the break with tradition in painting and in the visual arts at the turn of the century took much longer to be manifested in building design. Lines, volumes and planes in all their geometrical simplicity were embraced after the fancy expressions of Art Nouveau and Art Deco. Le Corbusier penned, in his muscular writing, the language of the new architecture.

“Architecture is the clever, accurate and magnificent play of volumes assembled with light”, he wrote. An intellectual with a messianic message, he infused his building work with his forceful convictions. His urban planning was meant to lead directly to human happiness and well-being. Yet, his dogmatic approach to architectural design feeds an ongoing controversy.

This modernist dwelling, with a single but prominent curved wall, became one of the beacons of the new form of thinking about housing humans. Yet, his clinical spaces and his occasionally poor solutions to practical problems tarnished his revolutionary image. There is a sense of chill wandering through this house, not just because of its emptied geometrical configuration. It is the absence of human emotion, in the work of a visionary who paradoxically placed  humanist concerns at the heart of his theories.

3 Comments


  1. L J Kim says: January 6, 20139:33 pm

    This was one of my favorite houses in Paris. My children and I spent an afternoon envisioning what it would be like, to live it such a place, at such a time.

    • José Medio says: January 7, 20139:50 am

      He translated the same design into large apartment buildings (La Cité Radieuse at Marseille). You can then understand what his critics mean.

  2. Alan Billingsley says: April 12, 20136:45 pm

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