Le Corbusier designed his first house as an independent architect being only 25 years old, The Maison Blanche. Also known as villa Jeanneret-Perret, it is located in La Chaux-de-Fonds, his home town in Switzerland which we visited in our Le Corbusier Route.
The Maison Blanche can be surprising for those who are familiar with the most famous work by the architect. The house was designed in 1912 for his parents, and it looks really different to the modern architecture that gave him international recognition.
The Maison Blanche marked a break with the ‘Style Sapin’
Le Corbusier worked with the architect René Chapallaz for his first projects. It is possible to see some of the houses they designed really close to the Maison Blanche, where they used the ‘Style Sapin’ -pine tree style-. This style came from the Art Nouveau, and its creative decoration was inspired in the local landscape.
The Maison Blanche marked a break with this regionalist style. The exterior of the house does not have any decoration, and the layout is much more open than the villas designed some years before.
The evolution of Le Corbusier after his first journeys
Le Corbusier started traveling in 1907, and it wasn’t until 1911 when he returned to La Chaux-de-Fonds. In those years he visited the center of Europe and the Mediterranean area, what was really important for his career development.
The Maison Blanche was the first work that showed his new experiences from his trips. The white façade and the roof of asbestos and cement suggest the landscapes from Italy and the East. The bedrooms in the first floor have plenty of natural light thanks to many windows installed in a horizontal way. This reminds of the prairie houses by Frank Lloyd Wright, whose work Le Corbusier had seen in the german magazines.
Visit to the Maison Blanche
The small garden was one of my favorite areas of the house. This has one of the first promenades architecturales by Le Corbusier, where one can enjoy a pleasant experience that takes you to the entrance door. The first part of the tour is covered by some canopies that are similar to the ones he drew in Pompeii, and later a beautiful walk that leaves you in front of the main door.
If you want to see some other projects where the promenade architecturale is used, take a look at La Tourette and the IMO.
Le Corbusier lived in the Maison Blanche until he moved to Paris in 1915. His parents sold the house in 1919, and after changing the owners several times, it was open to the public in 2005 by the ‘Association Maison Blanche’. For those who decide to visit the home town of this great architect, this is definitely a must-see.