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  • Spencer Mowatt

Villa Savoye - The Birth of Modernism and Minimalism

The Villa Savoye is one of the most influential buildings in the field of architecture, it pioneered the modernist movement and the concept of minimalistic design, which is significant and prioritized in today's architecture.

The mastermind behind this building was Le Corbusier, a Swiss-French architect that was one of the greatest artistic thinkers of his time. He was commissioned by Mr. and Mrs. Savoye for a weekend home away from the city, in the outskirts of Paris. The couple gave Le Corbusier free reign on this project, which allowed Le Corbusier to apply his modernist philosophy to his work. It is important to note that modernism was already around, but has not been fully accepted. Post World War I, an architectural clash between neo-classical architecture and modernist architecture was occurring. The Villa Savoye was a profound statement in that battle, and it successfully allowed modernism to be adopted all over the world.

Modernism was based on the technological advancement that was happening during the rapid industrialization after World War, particularly the use of glass, steel, and reinforced concrete. It also adopted the ideas of Louis Sullivan, who famously coined the phrase "Form Follows Function", where the form of a building should reflect its function. This blossomed into the embrace of minimalism, and therefore the rejection of ornaments which were popular in neo-classical architecture at the time, shown in the image below.

The Villa Savoye was also the first example of Le Corbusier's five points of modern architecture. The Piloti, roof terrace, free plan, free facade, and ribbon windows. What I find to be the most interesting is the concept of free plan and free facade. It was a new idea that changed the way buildings were designed and constructed. The Free Plan is the rejection of traditional load-bearing exterior walls, rather than the use of load-bearing interior columns. This allowed the interior to be manipulated in any way, like organic forms in the interior. The Free Facade is the same idea, but without the duty, for the facade to be able to hold the building's load, it can now be freely manipulated.

These revolutionary ideas are what made Le Corbusier and his masterpiece famous. It kick-started a whole movement. Without this work of art, the scope of architecture would likely be very different today.

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