Just an hour from Paris you’ll find a most photogenic masterpiece of the international style: Villa Savoye. The ‘box in the air’ was designed by the Swiss-born architect Le Corbusier and built between 1928 and 1931 for his wealthy and forward-thinking clients, the Savoye family.
The house is both a manifestation and articulation of the architect’s Five Points of Architecture ‘manifesto’ to combine stilts, a free-floating facade, open-plan interiors, horizontal windows and a roof-top garden. (Why elements such as ‘stilts’ require an actual ‘manifesto’ is bemusing to us, but these were back in the days when manifesto-writing was all the rage.) The 80-year-old country house with a startlingly contemporary feel is lauded by architecture fans who are willing to brave the RER suburban train line for a distinctly un-scenic pilgrimage to this modernist icon. The day we visited it was popular with a tour group of enthusiastic Chinese students (each of whom averaged 200 photos during the visit, admittedly, some of our party managed about the same). However, if your visit doesn’t coincide with a tour, you can expect to have the house pretty much to yourself.
The lines of the house are as achingly pure and beautiful as they always were – as Le Corbusier said, “the house sits on the grass like an object, without disturbing anything”. The fact that it survived the German occupation during WWII, decades of neglect and some really great parties by French youth groups during the 1960’s is testimony to both the integrity of the design and solidity of the materials. At one point, the Villa Savoye was nearly in ruins, and it’s great that it’s been pulled back from the void and opened to the public. Of course, it’s not in perfect nick – it is in need of maintenance and perhaps a greater degree of diligence with some cleaning materials. (Hint, hint.) On the upside, as a visitor you are free to roam around as you like, test out the rather worn Le Corbusier furnishings and fantasize about hiring it for your next do. (Those built-in outdoor tables are perfect for DJ decks.)
How to get there: While we have popped this entry into our ‘Day or two in Paris’ to be realistic you will need about half a day for this excursion. It takes about an hour to get to Villa Savoye from Paris – take the RER Ligne A to the town of Poissy. From here it’s a 10-minute bus ride to the house. The bus stop is outside the train terminal – warning, there are two bus terminals, take the exit through the main terminal lobby and hang a left. Take bus No. 50 direction “la Coudraie” (you can buy a ticket on the bus with cash), get off at bus stop “Villa Savoye” and keep walking – it’s through a gate on your right hand side on a well-treed site. (Signage is minimal.)
Tips: Check the opening hours before as they vary enormously. Unless you are a real Le Corbusier tragic, we reckon you should be done in 1-2 hours. If you can’t get there, there’s always the possibility of building your own on a more modest scale, like this homage constructed from lego.
Are you a Le Corbusier tragic? Check out our review of the Le Corbusier Hotel in the Marseille Unite d’Habitation.
82 Rue de Villiers,
Open every day except Monday. Usually 10-5pm except from Nov-Feb when it's closed between 1-2-pm. In summer it's open until 6pm.
Note: this entry is off the Paris Play map.