Two of the most famous architects during the twentieth century were American Frank Lloyd Wright and Swiss Charles Le Corbusier. Two of the most profound homes designed during the early part of the century were the works of these two geniuses; Fallingwater in rural Bear Run, Pennsylvania and Villa Savoye in Poissey, France. While there are obvious differences, both the American and French homes have many similarities.
The design of Fallingwater in nineteen thirty-six and Villa Savoye in nineteen twenty-nine were within ten years of each other and therefore were both examples of their modern times. While both homes were designed a decade after Cubism, both were obviously influenced by it. The cantilever balconies of Fallingwater are the most striking Cubist feature of the home while the sharp exterior angles and horizontal second story windows display the influence at Villa Savoye. Both homes also incorporate nature into the design. Even though they were built in the height of the Modernist Period and both are predominately composed of concrete, the integration of the natural surroundings was the architects’ reaction to man’s urbanization. While the homes were abundant with modern technology of the day, the natural surroundings take center stage. Both homes have open floor plans that allow the windows to deliver a great deal of natural light.
Fallingwater is situated in the middle of a forest and is built directly over a waterfall while Villa Savoye is situated in an open area. Villa Savoye relies on the rooftop garden to bring nature to the home. It is a stark white building that stands out. However, Wright nestled Fallingwater into the forest using a natural color palette to the extent that the home seems as if naturally belongs there.
Wright’s desire to create a unified and organic composition limited the color palette at Fallingwater. Only two colors were used throughout: a light ochre for the concrete and his signature Cherokee red for the steel. (Fallingwater)
He also used many materials such as boulders and there are no window frames so that the glass and stones meet. The home has several bridges to connect the different part of the home that are apart to suit the landscape. Villa Savoye is one complete building and only relies on the openness of the massive glass windows to bring nature into the home.
An early and classic exemplar of the “International Style”, which hovers above a grass plane on thin concrete pilotti, with strip windows, and a flat roof with a deck area, ramp, and a few contained touches of curvaceous walls. (Matthews)
Both Fallingwater, designed by Wright and Villa Savoye, designed by Le Corbusier, have been recently restored to their former grandeur so that society will be able to appreciate the architectural wonders of the Modernist Period for centuries to come. There are many other buildings that also reflect the period, but these two are by far the most recognizable. The fact that they were homes instead of commercial buildings allows the world to relive a part of its history.
- Fallingwater. 30, January 2009 http://www.fallingwater.org/
- “Le Corbusier.” Le Corbusier: Architect Biography. 30, January 2009
- Matthews, Kevin. “Villa Savoye.” Great Buildings Online. 30, January 2009