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]