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  • Writer's pictureNigel Wakeham

Le Corbusier: Villa Savoye at Roissy

Updated: Apr 19, 2019

Nigel Wakeham: Consultant Architect

In the summer of 2016 I also visited Le Corbusier’s Villa Savoye in Poissy on the outskirts of Paris. The house was the weekend home of the Savoye family and was constructed between 1928 and 1931. It is set in the middle of a large, flat lawn across which a gravelled road leads to the entrance of the house (which is at the rear) around a curved, glazed wall the diameter of which was based on the turning circles of the cars of the day.


Villa Savoye was the culmination of Le Corbusier’s research into family homes and the first implementation of his ‘Five Points of New Architecture’: the use of piloti to raise the main part of the building off the ground; the provision of flat roofs and roof gardens; the separation of structure and internal walls to facilitate open-planning; the separation of structure and façade so that windows can be freely placed and the provision of long, horizontal windows.

On the ground floor are the main entrance and the service rooms: a servants’ room, a laundry and a large garage. From the entrance a dog-leg staircase and a ramp lead up to the first floor where are located the main living areas: the living room that opens onto a large terrace; a kitchen and pantry; the main bedroom with its own bathroom and a dressing room that opens on to the terrace and two other bedrooms that share a bathroom. The staircase and another ramp lead up to a roof terrace and a ‘solarium’ protected by a curved wall.

When the house was built there would have been views of the Seine from both terraces but these are now obscured by trees. Le Corbusier based the design of the house on the ramps that link the ground floor to the first floor and the first floor to the roof terrace and all of the communal spaces revolve around these ramps which also open up the centre of the building.

With the ground floor set back from the first floor on three sides, the house appears to float above the ground on its slender piloti and the continuous ribbon windows to three sides on the first floor (and a similar opening on the fourth elevation to the first floor terrace) do away with any idea of front and back while the stark white walls with the ribbon windows set almost flush give reality to the architect’s idea of a house as a ‘machine for living’.

At the entrance to the site is the caretaker/gardener's house which is delightful and is apparently the only built example of Le Corbusier's minimum one-family house.

Although the architecture is quite different to anything that I would attempt, it seems to me that even today the house would make a very useable and enjoyable home (even though the Savoye family did not seem to make much use of it) although you would have to be very rich to enjoy it. Not really an example of social housing!


Architecture in Developing Countries: A Resource

The design and construction of appropriate, low-cost buildings for education and health in rural areas of the developing world.

Nigel Wakeham is an architect who lived for 23 years in Southern and West Africa and the SW Pacific working on education, health and other projects. He has since worked for over 20 years as a consultant for national governments and agencies such as the World Bank, DFID, ADB and AfDB on the implementation of the construction components of education and health projects in many countries in the developing world.​​​

The objective of this website will be to provide the benefit of more than 45 years of experience of working in developing countries to architects and other construction professionals involved in the design and construction of appropriate, low-cost buildings for education and health. It will provide reference material from the projects that Nigel has worked on and technical information on the design, construction and maintenance of educational and health facilities and other relevant topics and these will be added to from time to time.

I am happy to be contacted by anyone requiring further information on any of the projects or resources referred to in this website or by anyone wishing to discuss work possibilities.


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