diamond geezer

 Thursday, July 12, 2018

À PARIS: Maison La Roche

Le Corbusier, the 20th century's most influential architect, was born Charles-Édouard Jeanneret and was actually Swiss. But he moved to Paris permanently at the age of 30, founding his first practice, and the city contains many examples of his finest work. One of these is Maison La Roche, an early commission for a Swiss banker and art collector, shoehorned into an awkward cul-de-sac site surrounded by older residential buildings. It's now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, half private museum and half public showhome, should you fancy looking around.
[Entrance €8; closed Sundays; nearest station Jasmin, line 9] [website]

Maison La Roche exemplifies le Corbusier's Five Points of Architecture, his guiding principles for modern housing design. The first of these is that the core of the building rests on free-standing columns, raising it from the ground, here allowing for a small featureless garden beneath the main gallery. Here you may find a crowd of young foreign tourists, hyped up for a group visit, ideally on their way out so they don't spill into every photograph you later take. The front door is kept shut, and you have to ring the bell so that the solo member of staff inside can let you in.

After engaging in conversation about tickets and rucksacks and blue plastic protective slippers, I was particularly chuffed to be given a copy of the house guide in French, which I then had to swap for English so I had a hope of reading it. Be warned that Le Corbusier didn't provide much space for luggage, and what little there is isn't especially secure. But the entrance hall does exemplify another of his Five Points, an open floor plan premised on a skeletal internal structure. This space rises three storeys, with irregular landings and balconies skirting its rim, all linked by narrow stairs. They've had to install netting across the top landing, I suspect to prevent visitors from accidentally tumbling over.

The most impressive space is the Gallery, a long room supported on those stilts we saw earlier. It bulges outwards, the dominant feature being a ramp which links the main room to a galleried library, and which can be a bit slippery to negotiate when you have blue plastic bags on your feet. The high horizontal windows running the whole length of the façade are another of the architect's Five Points, made easy to include when the external walls aren't loadbearing. Some sparse and quirky furniture only adds to the ambience. The far corner seems to be the optimal place for a photo, although it can be hard to stand there because it's often occupied by optimal photographers.

Several more normal rooms can be found stacked on the other side of the hallway, for dining, sleeping and abluting, because Maison La Roche had to be practical too. But climb to the very top and there's another treat, and another Point - a roof terrace "to form the transition between inside and outside". This one's long and segmented, with sheltered bits and curved bits and plenty of room for sunbathing, not to mention opportunities for chatting with the neighbours on their subtly different terrace nextdoor. This kind of design no doubt works best in countries with a warm climate, but what a wonderful use of limited space.

The last of le Corbusier's Five Points he called "la façade libre", specifically that if exterior walls aren't load-bearing they can be made to act as a curtain concealing the interior. That's certainly true here, as standing outside you have no idea quite what wonders are going on within. As I left, a fresh party of Japanese teenagers were streaming in and bootee-ing up, ready to discover this for themselves. Or more likely they were about to take some cracking Instagram shots, because if there's one thing le Corbusier understood a century ago, it's that great visuals never go out of fashion. [10 photos]

<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>

click to return to the main page

...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan19  Feb19
Jan18  Feb18  Mar18  Apr18  May18  Jun18  Jul18  Aug18  Sep18  Oct18  Nov18  Dec18
Jan17  Feb17  Mar17  Apr17  May17  Jun17  Jul17  Aug17  Sep17  Oct17  Nov17  Dec17
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
Life viewed from London E3

» email me
» follow me on twitter
» follow the blog on Twitter
» follow the blog on RSS

my flickr photostream