Friday, June 3, 2011

Villa Besnus

Villa Besnus, "Ker-Ka-Ré", Vaucresson, France, 1922

This design was the direct practical outcome of the Town-Planning Stand at the Paris "Salon d'Automne" of 1922. It dates from a period when every kind of difficulty presented itself simultaneously. Though theories had been put forward and principles developed for clearing the ground in "L'Esprit Nouveau", everything in this house had, architecturally speaking, to be created anew : methods of construction, an efficient structural solution of the roof problem and of the window-surrounds, parapet, etc. The design reveals its free planning - the bathroom being placed in the centre of the floor area. It likewise defines the form of the window and its proportions, which are correctly adjusted to the human scale.

Here, for instance, is an example which is only one among many others that could be taken from this house of care bestowed on aesthetic considerations : One sketch shows the rounded staircase-cage, which it will be seen is placed perpendicular to the facade. Le Corbusier has told how when he had just come out of the Velodrome d'Hiver one evening during "Les Six jours" (relay cycle races) - "a magnificent spectacle combining grandeur and coordination" - he suddenly realized "in the mental silence of the street" that this perpendicular staircase was a discordant rhythm which destroyed the basic unity of his design. He therefore readjusted the position of the staircase to make it take a quarter turn along the facade, thereby emphasizing and amplifying the latter. Intense moments such as these, he says, teach us a lifelong lesson. "They make us turn our backs on mere accident, impel us to sacrifice a pleasing detail, and force us to seek coherent unity. We must use all our ground to the full and invariably realize the widest possible dimensions. It will be seen that in architecture we can engage in plastic speculations in which - from the purely plastic point of view - we may do either well or badly."