(written by: Jennifer Lenn)
Imagine living in a steamship. Yes, a steamship. The idea does not, at first, appear very "cozy". At first glance, a steamship is not built for person to live, but rather for a person to work. The steamship is a design brought about by the need to transport goods and therefore is a machine for transportation. A "machine" is most likely the last thing that would come to mind when someone is piecing together their dream home. The sole purpose of a machine is to fulfill the duties for which it is intended to master and lends itself to only existing in order to serve as a functioning element of human society. In 1929 this idea of mending the concept of "machine" and "house" was pioneered by a Swiss designer, urbanist, writer and architect by the name of Charles-Edouard Jeannereet or more familiarly known as Le Corbusier.
The Swiss architect, who later became a French citizen, immersed himself in his fascination with the machine age of the 20th century. He particularly was interested in the technology of the steamships because of the innovative engineering and the modularity of their design. Le Corbusier felt that the steamship not only was inspirational in its engineering but also in the concept of its design. Being the "machine" that it is, the steamship holds only what is necessary to serve its function; no more and no less. Corbusier sought to expose the parallel of this concept between machines and architecture. So much so that he published his "Five Points of Architecture", where he clearly defines the necessary components of architecture in the form of a simple list.
Corbusier's five points are these:
1. Pilotis (slender columns)
2. Flat Roof Terrace
3. Open Plan
4. Ribbon Windows
5. Free Facade (a facade that is free of structural members)
In addition to his "Five Points of Architecture", Corbusier also designed one of his greatest contributions to the modern architecture of the 20th century. He designed a house emulating his five points to create a modern take a French country house located in Poissy, France. With his inspiration from the steamships he designed a house that illustrated the sole necessity of each of his five points so perfectly, in fact, that it describes his famous statement, " The house is a machine for living."
PILOTIS The pilotis serve as the structural support for the upper level of the villa. Their slender design creates a subtle reference to the surrounding trees. As the pilotis become part of the surroundings, the upper portion seems to be floating above the picturesque background. In order to add to the visual and structural strength of the pilotis, the core piece in the center exists as the central location of the plan but is also painted green to fade into the background which enhances the "floating" of the upper portion. The placement of the pilotis defines a circulation for an entrance which wraps around the entire building and directs you inward to the main portion. Corbusier accommodates for the owner's vehicle by providing a wrap around driveway leading into a garage on the lower level where the rest of the maintenance and service areas exist.
FLAT ROOF TERRACE The flat roof terrace on the top of the upper portion of the building reclaims the green area of the building footprint. Corbusier uses this space for domestic purposes such as gardening, relaxation, and entertainment.
OPEN PLAN The open plan is made possible by illuminated load bearing walls that allow for an open circulation through out the majority of the house. While it is an open plan there are clearly defined thresholds between public and private spaces.
RIBBON WINDOWS The white facade is delicately dressed with the seamlessly bending ribbon windows. These windows negate any form of hierarchy that may have possibly existed between the void FREE FACADES. They also inhibit the perception of interior and exterior from the outside. They do not fully become clear until they are experienced from the inside.
Throughout the entire space the visitor's experience is completely defined by Corbusier's ability to use the promenade to control the views and movement of the visitor. Using the pilotis, Corbusier sets up an approach to the building that makes it appear to be floating within a picturesque scene. At a closer view, the visitor is welcomed by an obvious path regulated by pilotis that direct you around the house to the main entrance. Once inside, the plan is more open and allows for more interaction with the spaces but eventually forces an upward movement to the green terrace. The roof terrace contains a ramp that eventually slows the visitor's pace to give attention to the views and enforce a more intimate pace by which the views can be more appreciated.