“Space, light and order,” said Le Corbusier, a pioneer of modern architecture and town planning. “These are the things that men need as much as bread or a place to sleep.”
All three can be found in abundance in the bright Parisian studio and apartment of Charles-Édouard Jeanneret, the Franco-Swiss painter and architect who lived under the pseudonym Le Corbusier. A tour of the 240-square-meter duplex, which reopened to the public at the end of last year after two years of restoration by the Le Corbusier Foundation, offers insight into both the environment in which man lived and worked, and an early example of his 1927 modernist manifesto Five architectural points.
Le Corbusier was 44 years old when he received the order for the Molitor building at 24 rue Nungesser et Coli, built between 1931 and 1934 in the quiet and green of the 16th arrondissement from the west of Paris. In 2016, the Molitor building was one of the 17 Le Corbusier sites in seven countries added to the UNESCO World Heritage List.
After having designed the whole of the block for a private developer with Pierre Jeanneret, his cousin and collaborator, Le Corbusier negotiates for himself the possession of the seventh and eighth floors. He lived there from 1934 with his wife Yvonne Gallis until the death of Le Corbusier in 1965.
The glazed building is inspired by the Maison de Verre from 1932, an old-style house on Rue Saint-Guillaume by Dutch architect Bernard Bijvoet. Like the neighboring and better-known building of Le Corbusier’s Maison La Roche, it represents an expression of Le Corbusier’s ideas on urban life.
In the 1920s, Le Corbusier designed the “Radiant City”, a plan of an orderly metropolis of the future that presented the elements of town planning, in order of importance: sky, trees, steel and concrete. The Molitor building keeps its promise, dominating on one side the Bois de Boulogne park, and nearby sports facilities such as the Parc des Princes and the Roland Garros stadiums, and the art deco Molitor swimming pool.
New building materials allowed Le Corbusier to put into practice what he defined as the five points of architecture: an open facade, an open plan, long horizontal windows, a roof garden and stilts – where the retaining walls are replaced by a grid of reinforced concrete columns that support the structural load.
The building’s elevator only goes up to the sixth floor, and so to reach Le Corbusier’s duplex mansion on the eighth, visitors climb a private staircase and enter a spacious workshop with an exposed brick wall that s ‘extends under a curved arch.
“The stone can speak to us; it speaks to us through the wall, ”says Le Corbusier. “This wall is my daily friend. It is in this workshop and adjoining office that he paints, writes and draws.
The workshop is full of creative chaos, but the living spaces are tidy and comfortable, equipped with built-in furniture, electric lighting and central heating. The living room is furnished with a sofa and armchairs co-designed by Le Corbusier with Pierre Jeanneret and Charlotte Perriand. It is arranged around the box containing the elevator machinery and the space occupied by the service elevator and the fireplace.
This frees up the eighth floor above, with a guest room for visits from Le Corbusier’s mother and a roof garden with stunning views over Paris – the roof garden being one of the five points of view. architecture of Le Corbusier.
Adjoining the living room below is the dining room, where a large table – a marble slab resting on two legs – has a drainage channel cut out around the edges. Le Corbusier is said to have been influenced by a mortuary table he saw in a dissection room. The tulip legs that fix the table to the floor in turn inspired Eero Saarinen, the neo-futuristic Finnish-American industrial designer.
The bedroom of Le Corbusier and his wife is the most remarkable of the rooms in the apartment, distinguished by its unconventional details: a door that opens through a revolving cabinet; a “master and mistress” bathroom divided in two; a bidet and an unusually high double bed. The bed is raised so that the eye can see the green of the Bois de Boulogne beyond the balcony railing to the outside.
Cupboards are built into the walls and the storage space reflects Le Corbusier’s admiration for ocean liners, which he revered in his 1927 manifesto for the lessons they offered in spatial efficiency and the organization of ships. buildings.
Le Corbusier maintained that the inhabitants of a city where the sky, the trees, the steel and the concrete appeared in their correct order would discover “the essential joys” of life.
For Gallis, there are signs that these essential joys may have been replaced by more prosaic irritations with everyday life in their glass-fronted duplex in Paris. They say she covered the bidet with a tea comforter. And commenting on the glass facades, she said: “All this light is killing me, driving me crazy. “
Le Corbusier studio-apartment, 24 rue Nungesser et Coli, Paris, is open Mondays and Tuesdays from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and from 1.30 p.m. to 6 p.m. [email protected]