Le Corbusier : Les Terrasses
On the Boards:
Le Corbusier’s Les Terrasses
Monograph Softcover Book and Limited Edition Box Set : Projects and Text by Judith DiMaio
Edited by Jonathan Dillon, and Charles Matz
In Production: Coming Soon
The house is a tool: a purely technical matter. But there is always a feeling, sometimes an overriding one,
which demands a very special attention: integrating the house to oneself, making it say “I exist”, making it radiate . . .
It is in this passage from one objective to another, from the function of being useful to the function of
radiating, that architecture is situated.
The designs for the Villa Stein - de Monzie were begun in 1926 for Mme. Gabrielle de Monzie who, with her daughter, had been living with Michael and Sarah Stein. Deborah Gans writes that the Steins suggested that the house should have something about it similar to the villas they encountered in their visits to Florence and Settignano, where multiple families and groups of friends gathered for extended stays in comfort. Le Corbusier called the project Les Terrasses, due to the multiple courts and terraces which wend and wind their way throughout the volume of the building.
The families lived there for seven years, selling their home in 1935. The building was again sold in 1957. In 1970, in a press release for an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, it states: “…the present owner, who by dividing the house into four apartments, remodelled it beyond recognition.” This of course is not exactly true – the building was subdivided into five apartments, not four. It also stated that “Although what remains is hardly more than a shell, the Villa Stein is still worthy of being declared a monument historique.” And in 1975 the exterior of Les Terrasses was in fact declared a protected monument historique by the French government. The apartments remain, as they have for the last half-century, privately owned and closely held.
The curator’s or collector’s cry at the transformations that accompany the phases of a building’s life mask the fact that within the protected shell of Les Terrasses lives a singular community who may well have witnessed a victory of modernism’s intent and idealism: the creation of a tool for living, for moving the spirit.
We are fortunate that in recent years, second generation owners like Julie Isoré (whose grandmother was the previous owner of her second floor apartment in Les Terrasses) have begun to transform what they can of the changes wrought to the interiors in the ‘60s. We are further fortunate that the owners have turned to Pierre-Antoine Gatier, Chief Architect and Inspector General of national historic monuments of France, who oversaw the restorations of Maison La Roche-Jeanneret and Eileen Gray’s E-1027, to begin a long overdue renovation to the iconic building’s exterior.
In 2014, M. Gatier reached out to Architect Judith DiMaio as a collaborator on the restoration uniquely capable of addressing the necessary move from the technical to the conceptual and poetic that Le Corbusier’s architecture demands. Her keen eye and long engagement with the proportional and painterly foundations of Le Corbusier’s modernism - as well as her experience as a lecturer, educator, dean, and scholar – made her an unparalleled guide in addressing the artistic concerns of the coming restoration.
Judith DiMaio’s telling of the story of the restoration of Le Corbusier’s Les Terrasses is forthcoming from Crucible Press.