The homes that architects build for their mothers are usually of a different order. This is particularly writ large in the case of pioneering architects Le Corbusier, Robert Venturi, and Richard Rogers, who present their care for their mother along with striking architecture. Let’s pay a visit to some of these architectural structures, which also happen to be significant in the evolution of architecture.
Villa Le Lac — A Modernist Utopia by Le Corbusier
Swiss-born architect Charles-Edouard Jeanneret, best known by his pseudonym Le Corbusier, is widely regarded as the most influential architect in the 20th century and the master of modern International Style, given his profound impact on modern functionalist design and his promising aesthetics and ideology offered for Modernist architecture. It’s also worth noting that UNESCO has officially listed 17 of his projects as World Heritage Sites, among which includes Villa Le Lac.
Built in the early 1920s, this home was designed by Le Corbusier for his mother. Nestled in lakeside of Corseaux, Switzerland, Villa Le Lac, or La Petit Maison is a manifesto project of Le Corbusier’s oeuvre, taking on the radical form of his revolutionary thesis that “A house is a machine for living in.” The sleek white property is supported by a walled garden and a sun deck on its flat roof with free floor plan inside. However, the most striking feature of the project is the ribbon windows that frame a view of the lake and mountains.
The splendid use of the panoramic windows running throughout the main living space underscores visual continuity and facilitating the interaction for his mother with the landscape. In doing so, the skylight is introduced into the interior, which plunges the dwellers into a natural landscape in an inadvertent manner, so as to achieve harmony between architecture and environment through the lens of landscape.
“To give the landscape more weight, you have to restrict it, give it a measure; obstruct the view through walls that are only piercing at certain strategic points and clear the view.” — Le Corbusier
Vanna Venturi House — A Mother’s House by Robert Venturi
The Vanna Venturi House designed by Robert Venturi is incredibly monumental in the evolution of architecture, and arguably signals the advent of Post-Modern architecture. Shortly after his father’s death in 1959, the architect embarked on the project for his newly widowed mother Vanna Venturi, and settled her into this house in the Philadelphia suburb of Chestnut Hill.
It can be said that the houses architects build for their mothers are generally more expressive and idiosyncratic compared with other projects, since they are given more freedom to put their design ideology into practice without a strict time limit. “She wanted a simple and unpretentious home, with most rooms on one level and no garage, as she no longer used a car. There was no detailed list of requirements and no deadline for completion,” said Venturi.
The Vann Venturi House features split pediments and pitched roofing. At the core of the building is the arch-framed facade, which is divided by a vertical split complete with a dramatic gable, oversized chimney in its center and mismatched windows, making it look distorted. In effect, the iconic Vanna Venturi House is rightly seen as Venturi’s architectural response against the then-accepted Modernist mainstream with complexity and contradiction, as manifested in the home’s ironic beauty.
“Some have said my mother’s house looks like a child’s drawing of a house – representing the fundamental aspects of shelter – gable roof, chimney, door and windows,” wrote Venturi in Architectural Record in 1982. “I like to think this is so.”
Wimbledon Village — A Warm Shelter for Mom by Richard Rogers
The Wimbledon House was designed by British architect Richard Rogers for his mother. Located at 22 Parkside in Wimbledon, London, the home was referred by him as “the most successful small project I’ve been involved in.” A transparent tube with solid boundary walls marks the single-story home, in which the garden and the house are made in one complete vision, providing mother Rogers with a sound barrier while celebrating visual flows.
“We decided to use a very simple steel frame, upside down Cs,” reveals Roger. “You could have as many as you like in a line, so the house could be as long as you wanted. Then you bought bus doors and bus windows and put those at the sides and at the end of this long tube was just glass, so it had absolute visual continuity.”
In 2013, the house received the accolade of Grade-II heritage listing as “a masterpiece from one of the most imaginative and exciting periods in private house building in this country”, which proves to be a seminal architectural heritage for the United Kingdom.
Do these houses strike a chord with you? What have been your personal experiences with architecture?
For more like this, check out our exploration of Women in Architecture: Pioneering Female Architects. Don’t forget to also follow us on social media. You can find us on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.