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Saturday, October 18, 2014

Le Corbusier Villa Savoye - France's modern architectural treasure

Villa Savoye, Poissy-sur-Seine, 1929-30

Perhaps one of Le Corbusier's most famous works of architecture - this little house on the outskirts of Paris has inspired countless young architects. Its beauty is in its simplicity and encompasses several interesting modern concepts such as a free floating facade, strip windows and the open plan. 

One of the most famous houses of the modern movement in architecture, the Villa Savoye is a masterpiece of LeCorbusier's purist design. It is perhaps the best example of LeCorbusier's goal to create a house which would be a "machine a habiter," a machine for living (in). Located in a suburb near Paris, the house is as beautiful and functional as a machine. 
The Villa Savoye was the culmination of many years of design, and the basis for much of LeCorbusier's later architure. Although it looks severe in photographs, it is a complex and visually stimulating structure. As with his church of Notre Dame du Haute, Ronchamp, the building looks different from every angle. After falling into disrepair after the war, the house has been restored and is open to the public.
Villa Savoye, Le Corbusier's machine for living - design features of the Villa Savoye include:

  • modulor design -- the result of Corbu's researches into mathematics, architecture (the golden section), and human proportion
  • "pilotis" -- the house is raised on stilts to separate it from the earth, and to use the land efficiently. These also suggest a modernized classicism.
  • no historical ornament, something quite radical at the time.
  • abstract sculptural design
  • pure color -- white on the outside, a color with associations of newness, purity, simplicity, and health (LeCorbusier earlier wrote a book entitled, When the Cathedrals were White), and planes of subtle color in the interior living areas
  • a very open interior plan
  • dynamic , non-traditional transitions between floors -- spiral staircases and ramps
  • built-in furniture
  • ribbon windows (echoing industrial architecture, but also providing openness and light)
  • roof garden, with both plantings and architectural (sculptural) shapes
  • integral garage (the curve of the ground floor of the house is based on the turning radius of the 1927 Citroen)
  • Little known fact - Le Corbusier loved privacy and liked to walk around naked hence the creation of the inner courtyard at Villa Savoye. 

Important, Interesting and Key Facts about the Villa Savoye

It was built between the I and II World Wars for a couple, Pierre and Emilie Savoye, as a country home in Poissy, on the outskirts of Paris, France. The house fell into disuse after 1940, and entered a state of disrepair during World War II (occupied twice during the war: first by the Germans and then by the Americans, both damaging the building severely). The Savoye family returned to their estate after the war, but, no longer in position to live as they had done before the war, they abandoned the house again shortly after.

It became the property of the French state in 1958, and after surviving several plans of demolition, it was designated as an official French historical monument in 1965 (a rare occurrence, as Le Corbusier was still living at the time). It was thoroughly renovated from 1985 to 1997, and under the care of the Centre des monuments nationaux.

Drawing inspiration from the design of early 20th century machinery such as electricity turbines and low-pressure ventilating fans, Le Corbusier conceived a space that would be similar in functionality and design to a machine, following his architectural mantra of "machines for living" (machines à habiter).
The villa was designed addressing Le Corbusier's emblematic "Five Points", the basic tenets in his new architectural aesthetic:
1. Support of ground-level pilotis, elevating the building from the earth and allowed an extended continuity of the garden beneath.
2. Functional roof, serving as a garden and terrace, reclaiming for nature the land occupied by the building.
3. Free floor plan, relieved of load-bearing walls, allowing walls to be placed freely and only where aesthetically needed.
4. Long horizontal windows, providing illumination and ventilation.
5. Freely-designed facades, serving as only as a skin of the wall and windows and unconstrained by load-bearing considerations.

Le Corbusier chose a flat roof for the Villa Savoye, a move he argued was for functionality, though it may just as well have been for the appearance of functionality. Eventually, the roof proved less than fully functional and leaked. The owners took Le Corbusier to court. But World War II broke out before the matter was settled, and the building was left in a state of disrepair.

'The approach is by car and as one passes under the building (a demonstration of urban doctrine), and follows the curve of industrial glazing (of which the geometry was determined by the car's turning circle), it becomes clear that one is to be drawn into a machine-age ritual. The plan of the building is square (one of the 'ideal' forms from Vers une architecture), curves, ramp and grid of structure providing the basic counterpoint to the perimeter. The section illustrates the basic divisions of a service and circulation zone below, a piano nobile above, and the celestial zone of the solarium on top: it's the section-type of Le Corbusier's ideal city but restated in microcosm.' Simon Glynn 2001

Sunday, September 14, 2014

The new business model: Authenticity - The Importance of Design and how it can make you rich financially and psychologically.

There is a new class of tourist that demands ultra-luxury…even if that means roughing it a bit.  The bottom line? Authenticity and attention to detail. 
More and more luxury homes and resorts are appearing along are coasts  around the world - the main goal?  An approach to sustainability, stunningly authentic design, and an approach to a holistic luxury lifestyle living based on health and happiness. 

Often times when it comes to luxury lifestyle - the luxury comes ironically from the simplicity. Architecture and Interiors that are consist of Clean lines,  void of clutter with hyper attention to materiality, detail of execution and spacious layout are being traded for "Neoclassical-Colonial" style designs of the older times Ritz style hotels.
Biggest design philosophy? Keep it simple. "People go on vacation so they don't have to deal with clutter and mess. They want to download their mind."

Design tip #1 - Keep it simple - less is more. A good book, a bottle of wine and some time talking with friends and family are what people are really looking for in a world of technology and hyper pressurized business deals. 

Define your intentions - if a bathroom is purely to wash, design it that way. If it is going to have a spa like affect and have ability to be a sanctuary and a meditatative space emphasize those qualities. Light, space and scale - things not always associated with bathrooms - can be critical way to add luxury simply by the fact that typically urban design environments don't allow for such spacial freedoms.

Light and texture combined with materiality can be the most important element in open air tropical design.  Cooler evening temperatures and architecture designed with cross breeze in mind provide an option for a few rooms to be Air Conditioning free. 

Find a good precedent for your design - there is plenty of room for creativity, but don't try to reinvent the wheel when there are so many incredible existing projects to borrow quality ideas from and maybe even improve on. 

Sometimes the most exotic feeling is when there is little to no design at all - open air is a critical concept. 

Views and proximity to water is the ultimate luxury - even if that means building perilously close to the seashore or waters edge. 

Nature is the best inspiration - keep the color for Pop art in your urban residence - the ocean villa can be very spartan. 

Keep color to a minimum - only use it on elements that can be changed out in the future such as accessories and pillows etc. 

Keep it natural - often the best patina's are on wood, stone and woven natural materials. 

Landscape is everything - it is the art and focal point of the entire experience. 

Often times when it comes to luxury lifestyle - the luxury comes ironically from the simplicity. Architecture and Interiors that are consist of Clean lines,  void of clutter with hyper attention to materiality, detail of execution and spacious layout are being traded for "Neoclassical-Colonial" style designs of the older times Ritz style hotels.
Rule 1. Location
Rule 2. Maximize Light
Rule 3. Simplify - simply everything - even if you are a designer, hire professionals for the things you don't know. They can save you time, headache and money. Areas such as Landscape is often critical - find a local who you can trust and who can help you. 
Rule 4. Create a language. Texture, Light, and Detail. 
Rule 5. Authenticity matters - what is your intention?
Rule 6. Find precedents - you aren't the first person designing a vacation villa or retreat. What exists and how can you improve upon it. 
Rule 7. Remember the concept that time is often the biggest luxury for the ultra wealthy who have everything - they will never have enough time. Efficiency, minimize clutter, make life effortless but still interesting and even challenging. 

From technology to real-estate, design is becoming more and more important - Steve Jobs ratified the cell phone experience with his insistence there be only one button - this concept led to a device with infinite "buttons" as we now have an app for every conceived act. Conversely, design has come full circle, few feel it necessary to have a Versailles style home regardless of their net worth - what matters in design now is defining a specific aesthetic but working closely with professionals to make sure it is executed in a precise and sophisticated manner with exacting attention to detail. Regardless of budget and lavishness - the ultimate luxury is time. Whether waiting for construction to finalize or decorating a ocean side bungalow - simplify.  - Ecomanta 

Friday, September 5, 2014

Michelangelo, Davinci and Zen in European Classical Architecture and Art,

The Zen Buddhist Master once asked the disciple if they were to meet the Buddha, what would they do?
The young apprentice asked the pertinent question is this Buddha the man, or Buddha the god?
To which the Zen Buddhist Master replied loudly, "You are missing the entire point, if one day you meet the Buddha, you must immediately kill him! For there is no Buddha, he exists only in the quagmire of your mind!
Kant spoke often of the beauty of the overwhelming…of the immense scale of nature. We can find beauty in the most obscure and unusual places. A piece of lichen growing on a mattress. 
Regardless of where and which generation we were raised, our own historical background and future are forever an estimation for we have but memories and dreams, but little else save a few historical artifacts and art objects ( photos   - we are all fascinated with history ancient or otherwise and particularly our own mortality. The images above show the beauty and horror of impermanence. As humans we fear death and seek solace often with religious institutions to help us, the living, deal with death that we see around us and ultimately our own deaths which will someday most likely arrive. The beauty of art whether photos of decaying architecture - the most "immortal" and long lasting of the arts, is that is makes us deal with the beauty of life and at times the ability to capture that beauty and freeze it in time. Other times art can make us face our own mortality - either way the 
Michelangelo was only 24 years old, when he finished his masterpiece: Piéta. It is held as his finest work and probably is one of the most referred and studied work of the Renaissance.
The statue was commissioned by Cardinal Jean de Billheres, who aimed it as a decoration on his funeral monument. Originally it was placed in the chapel of Santa Petronilla, and only after the rebuilding of the Saint Peter Basilica by Bramante was it set up in the first side chapel, on the right hand side. Michelangelo carved the statue from a single slab of Carrara marble, choosing the material personally. The completion took less then two years (around 1498-99) and it is the only finished Piéta of the sculptor. There are three other later works with the same topic: the Rondanini PiétaDeposition andPalestrina Piéta.
The composition has a pyramidal shape: Mary holds the dead son in her lap. The proportions of the figures are somewhat distorted, Mary's body is enlarged by undulating draperies, to be able to hold a fully-grown man. The marks of the Crucifiction can hardly be seen. The statue is full of controversy: the almost naked body of Christ and the rich garment of Mary, the dead and the alive, lights and shadows, vertical and horizontal layout. Due to the elaborate details and precision the contrasts are somehow equalized and it reflects pure harmony.
The theme of piéta was known in art before Michelangelo but was depicted on paintings only and mostly in the northern regions of Europe. The word piéta means pity or compassion, and depicts Mary contemplating her dead son after the Crucifiction. Michelangelo used a new approach to depict the scene and combined Renaissance ideals with naturalism. The face of Mary reveals serenity and majestic acceptance, there are no signs of grief. Her body is concealed by the rich wrinkles and folds of her garment. The depiction of Mary as a young and beautiful woman raised criticism but according to Michelangelo's reaction he aimed to figure the ideal beauty and a chaste woman, who is ageless. The body of Christ is carved with anatomical perfection. The sculptor studied the great statues of antiquity and had a chance to see some newly unearthed sculptures and ruins, when he arrived at Rome. Like his contemporary, Leonardo da Vinci, he also dissected corps to study anatomy. He could perfectly reproduce the dead corpus: the head declines back, the body is enervate, one arm hangs powerless.
This is the only work Michelangelo had ever signed. According to the legend, someone attributed his work to another sculptor and in great disappointment he carved his name in Mary's sash.
Unfortunately this great masterpiece suffered some damages over the centuries. Four fingers of Mary were broken during a move, which was restored later. In 1972 a mentally disturbed geologist attacked the sculpture with a hammer and caused serious damages. Among others the left arm and the nose of Mary were shattered. The statue was immediately restored and nowadays it is protected by a bullet proof glass panel to save it for future centuries.