La Maison La Roche (et Villa Jeanneret*)
Built 1923/25 by Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret
8 -10 Square du Docteur-Blanche 75016 Paris, France
Not surprisingly, Le Corbusier didn’t design with wheelchair access in mind, this means I was only able to visit the ground floor (the entryway and the guardian’s apartment). Still, I was happy I made the trek.
The guardian had a double sink in the kitchen and this rather dainty sink in his petite powder room. The powder room also served as a passage between the guardian’s rooms and the entrance hall. There is a small toilette hidden behind a door to the left of the sink. I asked where the guardian showered and was told he would have used the sink to do his washing up which was typical of the period. The bathrooms are always where Le Corbusier’s buildings most glaringly show their age and his inability to completely break from convention.
Bellow, the highlights (my translation) of the Fondation Le Corbusier pamphlet (Maison La Roche 1923/1925) I received on my visit.
The famous client
Raoul Albert La Roche was born in 1889 in Bâle, Switzerland and moved to Paris in 1912. He would later work at the bank Crédit Commercial de France where he would stay until his retirement in 1954. He met Charles-Édouard Jeanneret-Gris (he wouldn’t become Le Corbusier until 1923) in 1918. La Roche moved in artistic circles and became friends with Amédée Ozenfant (1886 – 1966) whose council helped him build an impressive collection of early/mid 20th century art. His collection included works by Picasso, Braque, Léger, Gris, and his friends Ozenfant and Jeanneret (Le Corbusier). When it came time to build a home for his collection La Roche, naturally, turned to his friends the cousins Charles and Pierre Jeanneret.
La Roche died in Bâle in 1965 leaving his home to the Fondation Le Corbusier. His art collection was divided among various museums in Switzerland and France.
The other client
Villa Jeanneret (#8) was commissioned by Le Corbusier’s brother, Albert Jeanneret, and his fiancée Lotti Raaf.
The long, narrow site (with a North/South orientation) is located at the end of an “impasse” (cul de sac) and came complete with mature trees to build around, nearby neighbors to appease, and a number of zoning restrictions to contend with.
A home for the architect’s brother and his family and a gallery and home for his bachelor friend.
Esthetically, La Roche wanted a home without pretension in line with the dictates of Purisime. Le Corbusier proposed pure volumes cleverly enhanced through the use of natural light and large blocks of color.
Concrete, glass, iron, tile (floor), wood (floor), caoutchouc (floor)
Moving right along and skipping over the actual bits and pieces (the rooms I didn’t get to see), these two buildings allowed Le Corbusier to put his hitherto only conceptual ideas into practice. Here, his soon to be canonical Five Points Towards A New Architecture would take physical shape.
Gris blanc huile
Bleu outremer foncé
Bleu ceruleum moyen 2
Terre de Sienne claire
Sienne naturelle moyen
Sienne naturelle claire
Sienne naturelle pâle
Sienne brûlée claire
Terre d’ombre brûlée
(Le Corbusier’s original palette for La Mason La Roche)
*Villa Jeanneret at #8 houses the Fondation Le Corbusier and is only open by prior arrangement. www.fondationlecorbusier.fr/
**La Roche would greet his guests from here.
***Bare bulbs are a signature Le Corbusier move, reminding all who gaze into their harsh light of his desire to break away from the overly ornamented past.
****The kitchen counters in the guardian’s apartment are only 31” high, perfect for me but a bit low if you’re standing. I noted this at Villa Savoye as well. Yes, people were shorter than but my guess is LC was also designing based on his own proportions.
*****”The inside is always outside.”