My architect friend, S, wanted to visit the Villa Savoye (les Heures Claires) in Poissy. Always ready for a little adventure I said I’d happily accompany her. My phone said it should take 18 steps and 27 minutes for us to get there. 2 hours, many missed exits and u-turns later we arrived.
Villa Savoye* is an ode to obsession, arrogance, and vision. The surfaces have not aged well but the building retains the shock and not of this timeness the original owners must have felt. This is a house meant to prove a point not necessarily to be lived in.
The central feature of the house is a ramp** running from the ground floor to the roof. Beside the ramp is a spiral staircase. The ramp allows a smooth, even flow from floor to floor, the stairs a speeder but no less elegant ascent.
There’s a satisfying mix of the hyper modern and the quaint.
The bathroom fixtures remind you of when the house was built. They are curvy and the porcelain has yellowed. Oddly, there are no mirrors.
The bedrooms are forcefully not grand, even a little cramped.
The kitchen is low and tight with lots of light, numerous workstations with various surface and lots and lots of storage. It’s silver and white, hospitallike. The counters are low. Low for the clients? Because Le Corbusier was short?
According to Le Corbusier a house should provide:
1. A shelter against heat, cold, rain, thieves and the inquisitive.
2. A receptacle for light and sun.
3. A certain number of cells appropriated to cooking, work, and personal life.
*Villa Savoye, built between 1928 and 1931, was designed by the Swiss architect Le Corbusier (Charles Edouard Jeanneret) for Pierre and Emilie Savoye. I wasn’t able to find much about the Savoye’s other than that they were rich (M. Savoye sold insurance) and Jewish and had a son named Roger. Their history seems to have been eclipsed by the history of their house. A house they never really lived in. Any suggestions for where I might find out more about the Savoyes?
In a 1936 letter to Le Corbusier Emilie Savoye wrote, “It’s raining in the hall, it’s raining on the ramp, and the wall of the garage is absolutely soaked. What’s more, it’s still raining in my bathroom, which floods in bad weather, as the water comes in through the skylight.”
**The ramps were not built with wheelchair accessibility in mind. All of the ramps are steep and the interior ramps are both steep and slippery. There is a small step at the entrance which can be ramped upon request. The restroom is tiny and the doorway is extremely narrow. The paths leading to the house are a mix of hard packed dirt and loose gravel.
82 Rue de Villiers 78300 Poissy
01 39 65 01 06