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Villa Savoye: A Machine for Living

Updated: Jun 4, 2022

Le Corbusier’s famous quote “The house is a machine for living” is a perfect definition of Villa Savoye. Not only was it built for efficiency, but it was made to maximize leisure and it represents the spirit of modern architecture. The house is found just outside of Paris and provided its affluent owners with a peaceful escape from the noisy city. While he enjoyed the modern style, Le Corbusier also appreciated the beauty of ancient artwork. He was particularly inspired by the Parthenon, which is evident by the columns, the use of white, and the appreciation of geometry.

Villa Savoye. Poissy-sur-Seine, France. Le Corbusier. 1929 CE. Steel and reinforced concrete.

Five Points of Architecture

After years of architectural practice, Le Corbusier developed a theory called the Five Points of Architecture, which he believed could be applied to any building. Unsurprisingly, the five points are visible in Villa Savoye.

Here are the points:

1. Slender columns, called pilotis, are necessary to elevate the building and to permit air circulation underneath

2. A roof terrace is required to incorporate nature into an urban environment

3. A free interior plan

4. A free facade that can be used for experimentation

5. Ribbon windows are needed to let in light

Why does it matter?

I am not going to lie, when I saw this house I was new to Art History and was confused. I thought, why is this box of a building included in the curriculum? But then, someone in my class said "Wow. This was made in 1929." Let that sink in. It is so modern and advanced for its time period. That is why it is included in the curriculum and it is not just another house. In my opinion, it is especially remarkable because it gives off the illusion of being a floating box solely held up by skinny columns. The house contains a contrast between squares and curves. The dynamic and fluid interior of the house contrasts with the planarity of the outside. I think Smarthistory sums this piece up the best, saying “Villa Savoye can best be understood as Le Corbusier’s refinement of his architectural system, his own personal Parthenon.”


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