The book review leads to creation 3 Une Petite Maison / A book review by furniture designer Makoto Koizumi

09.07.27

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Une petite maison 1923  Author: Le Corbusier (Birkhuser) 

A book review by furniture designer Makoto Koizumi

 

As if taking a walk-through of the house 

It was 18 years ago that I saw Corbusier’s architecture for the first time. With Yuzuru Tominaga’s book Le Corbusier: Unit of geometry and mankind in one hand, I strolled over a small hill from Poissy station in the suburbs of Paris to his representative work La Villa Savoye. At the time, the wall paint was peeling and maintenance was not perfect, but the condition realistically conveyed its 65 years and I was stunned by a modernness that transcended the times. At that very instant, I became captivated by Corbusier, and during the same trip I visited over a dozen of his buildings including the Sainte Marie de La Tourette near Lyon and even his retreat Cabanon Le Corbusier in Cap Martin, south France.

I’ve visited La Villa Savoye several times since then, and was particularly amazed by the precision of its details when I visited it the second time. I was also impressed by Corbusier’s ideas to prevent weathering (such as the route for condensation at windows to flow, althought it seems the roof did leak), to incorporate natural light and wind, and to establish a relationship between furniture and architecture.

I met one of Corbusier’s students the third time around, and was astonished to discover that the villa was designed to be a device to invite people based on the medieval lifestyle. As the main presence of the house was a woman, there was an eye-level control area from which she could grasp the situation of each and every room from her main bedroom (just like a cockpit), and clever ideas are incorporated in establishing the underlying lines of flow for that control. The mystery of the shape and location of the bathroom that seems so strange to everyone and its relationship with light were also solved through this visit.

In my fourth visit, I explored Corbusier’s reasoning for the colors, and fully understood not only why he used natural colors but also colors that make the main bedroom (the cockpit) difficult to see from outside, and why light blue and pink are used in the bathroom. It is a residence that makes you discover something new every time you visit it, like a treasure box. Each time, I feel a realistic sensation and a sense of scale knowing that Corbusier himself walked around and lived in this space while he was designing it. He didn’t simply create something new in terms of overall, theoretical and architectural approaches; it is new despite firmly incorporating “people.”

Une Petite Maison introduces a small house Corbusier built for his parents. Unlike a typical architectural book filled with photos of beautifully framed sections and a photo composition that easily explains the concept, Une Petite Maison is composed more like a picture book that lets readers walk through the house. It starts from photos of the surrounding scenery, moves through the gate and yard, observes the niche for the cat, tours through the rooms and then moves back out to the yard to see the scenery once again…. Although it comprises only black and white photos and short text, it is exciting as new scenes appear every time you turn the page, and each of those scenes seems so comfortable.

I’ve never seen this house firsthand, but this book conveys comprehensively the important elements that I felt through actually visiting some of Corbusier’s architecture. I believe it is a “form of living” rather than a “form of architecture.” And that form is beautifully finished based on Corbusier’s experience and sensitivity. (from AXIS vol. 134)

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