Maison Jaoul represents a pivotal moment in the evolutionary journey of Le Corbusier, a luminary in modern architecture whose influence permeates the 20th century and beyond. Located in the upscale Parisian suburb of Neuilly-sur-Seine, the twin villas of Maison Jaoul signify a significant shift away from Le Corbusier’s earlier adherence to the principles outlined in his “Five Points of a New Architecture.” Constructed for André Jaoul and his eldest son, these houses embody a transition towards a material and spatial heterogeneity, contrasting sharply with the architect’s prior work.
Maison Jaoul Technical Information
- Architects: Le Corbusier
- Location: 83 Rue de Longchamp, Neuilly-sur-Seine, Paris, France
- Topics: Modernism, Brick in Architecture, Spatial heterogeneity
- Project Year: 1951 – 1956
- Photographs: © Cemal Emden, © Seier+Seier, © Manuel Bougot
Jaoul is a Catalan vault, white cement tiles, exposed brick walls and a nice system of interior wooden shutters. Now, all at once, we need to breathe life into things. So a few decisions are called for, not eclectic and hasty, but creative, intense and provocative.
– Le Corbusier3
Maison Jaoul Photographs
The Transition from Homogeneity to Heterogeneity
Le Corbusier’s work on Maison Jaoul in the mid-1950s symbolizes a radical shift in his architectural philosophy. Moving away from the abstract, homogenous vocabulary of his 1920s villas, Le Corbusier embraced a more tactile, material-based approach. The utilization of brick, concrete, and wood in Maison Jaoul diverges from the white, purist aesthetic of his earlier works, introducing a richer, more complex language of forms and materials. This transformation is not merely a stylistic change but a fundamental reevaluation of spatial dynamics and architectural expression.
The Architectural Design of Maison Jaoul
The design of Maison Jaoul is characterized by its departure from the Five Points that previously defined Le Corbusier’s work. The toit-terrasse (roof terrace) is replaced by Catalan vaults, introducing a primal concavity that contrasts with the flatness of his earlier roofs. The plan libre (free plan) is abandoned in favor of a more structured approach, with load-bearing walls dictating the spatial organization. This restructuring extends to the facade, where a heterogeneous mix of materials replaces the uniformity of earlier designs. The Maisons also forgo the pilotis (supporting columns), integrating the buildings more closely with the terrain.
The Concept of Inexpressible Space
At the heart of Maison Jaoul’s design is the concept of inexpressible space, a four-dimensional geometry that integrates architecture, painting, sculpture, and space, unified by the Modulor system. This spatial approach allows for the containment of convex forms within concave spaces, creating a fluidity that disrupts the static uniformity of traditional architectural forms. The rotated and mirrored volumes of the houses exemplify this spatial heterogeneity, challenging the viewer’s perception and understanding of space.
The Exterior-Interior Dichotomy
The exterior and interior spaces of Maison Jaoul are deliberately disconnected, a design choice that emphasizes the heterogeneity of the architectural expression. The complex spatial hierarchy is further underscored by the façades, which are viewed obliquely rather than frontally, complicating the spatial narrative. This approach is manifested in the façades’ composition, where the interplay of horizontal and vertical elements creates a dynamic tension that eschews simple repetition for a more nuanced expression of form.
The Romantism of the “Mal Foutu”
Le Corbusier’s late works, including Maison Jaoul, reflect a “romantism of the messed-up” (romantisme du mal foutu), embracing heterogeneity and ambiguity. This theoretical evolution marks a conscious departure from his earlier, more homogenous approaches, proposing instead an architecture that engages with complexity and contradiction. Maison Jaoul, in this context, serves as a silent manifesto of this new phase in Le Corbusier’s career, demonstrating his commitment to exploring the boundaries of architectural expression.
Maison Jaoul Plans
Maison Jaoul Image Gallery
About Le Corbusier
Le Corbusier, born Charles-Édouard Jeanneret in 1887 in Switzerland, was a visionary architect, urban planner, and designer who profoundly influenced the 20th century’s architectural landscape. Embracing functionalism, his innovative ideas and radical approach to urban planning reshaped cities and living spaces across the globe. Le Corbusier’s pioneering principles, outlined in his “Five Points of a New Architecture,“ advocated for structures elevated on pilotis (supports), free-design floor plans, horizontal windows, free façades, and roof gardens. His iconic works, including the Villa Savoye in France and the city of Chandigarh in India, exemplify his belief in architecture as a means to improve living conditions for people.
Notes & Additional Credits
- Le Corbusier: Ideas and Forms, Curtis, William J.R., Phaidon Press
- Le Corbusier: Architect of the Twentieth Century, Frampton, Kenneth, Thames & Hudson
- Le Corbusier and the Continual Revolution in Architecture, Jencks, Charles, The Monacelli Press.