Blog archive June 2019

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27.06.19 / 01 / tp bennett weekend in paris

This year’s tp bennett office weekend away took us to Paris.

First task - get some decent photos of Centre Pompidou. This was swiftly done.

Chief priority - see some Le Corbusier stuff. Fortunately this wish was shared by several workmates. We visited the Maison La Roche which is the base for the Fondation Le Corbusier, and Corbusier’s own apartment.

Maison La Roche, 1923, is Le Corbusier's first mature work. It's a house of two halves, a residential part and a gallery part connected across a triple-height entrance hall. The residential wing feels cramped and awkwardly planned, sacrificed to a small lightwell. The gallery wing is spacious, a promenade by ramp and stairs and bridge. The interiors have been newly restored to their original wonderfully complex colour scheme. The colours are those of Le Corbusier's contemporaneous Purist paintings, strong but muted shades of blue, grey, terracotta, peach, brown, cream. On top of the building, a delightful roof garden.

Corbusier's own apartment is on top of a block he designed himself, with a fully glazed facade (a world first for an apartment block). The tiny lift only goes to the floor below, and then one climbs a cramped curved stair to the entrance gallery. The apartment splits around a pair of lightwells, with the entrance/living room as a bridge between the studio at the front and the dining, kitchen and bedroom at the rear. This leaves the living room as an odd residual space - the top of the lift shaft sticks up as a box, the curved stair continues up with no handrails to the roof.

The airy chapel-like studio is the primary space - for painting not for architecture, which happened at his office. The existing party wall stonework was left exposed, an early move towards Brutalism and the 'loft' aesthetic. The kitchen is a state-of-the-art design by Charlotte Perriand, tight but still appealing.

The bedroom reveals Le Corbusier as deeply weird. Entrance is by a pivoting clothes cupboard. The bed is on stilts to look over the balcony parapet. The his'n'hers sanitary arrangements place a bidet in the middle of the bedroom near Madame's dressing table (she put a tea cosy on it). There are no doors, not even to the toilet. In fact, there is space enough to place two full bathrooms behind a wall of storage - as at Maison La Roche, Corbusier was not the best space-planner.

We visited the Fondation Jerome Seydoux-Pathé, by Renzo Piano. I got to Place d’Italie early so I could walk down to Les Olympiades. This is the best part of the 'Italie 13' project which was cancelled in 1974. As an architectural student in the early 80s I did a year of projects in this area. We were trying to knit the Italie 13 towers and decks into the traditional urban fabric with postmodern classical squares - poor fools! Now I love it for its science-fiction futurism, and would rather propose the completion of Italie 13! I wanted to walk further to Le Corbusier's Pavillon Suisse but there wasn't the time.

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