Villa Savoye abandoned

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Le Corbusier's Villa Savoye, constructed from 1928-1932 as a new country home for clients Pierre and Eugénie Savoye, was inhabited for less than ten years before the Savoyes were forced to abandon the property following the outbreak of World War Two.[1]

During the war, the villa was occupied first by German, then US troops, during which time it was looted and heavily damaged.[2] The Savoyes were faced with a bill in the region of $80,000[3] in order to make the house habitable again after the war. Understandably reluctant to do so, in light of a sometimes fractious relationship with the house and its architect during the 1930's,[4] the Savoyes choose to leave the structure abandoned, while still retaining ownership.

In the years following, the empty villa continued to deteriorate; it was at one stage used as a hay loft, and the local town of Poissy unsuccessfully attempted to expropriate the building in order to demolish it to make room for the expansion of a nearby school.[5]

Bernard Tschumi, in his 1976 article "Architecture and Transgression" records visiting the villa in its state of vandalism and disrepair. "Those who in 1965 visited the then derelict Villa Savoye certainly remember the squalid walls of the small service rooms on the ground floor, stinking of urine, smeared with excrement, and covered with obscene graffiti." This, he argues, was not an unnatural state for the building to be in, but on the contrary, one in which it "was never more moving".[6]

Following a campaign led by Le Corbusier, and leveraging significant international support, the Villa became the first modernist building to be added to the French register of historical monuments in 1965,[7] providing the impetus needed to kick start its preservation. It was not until 1985 that work started on a full refurbishment, with the restoration of many of its original features, work that was completed in 1997.[8]

René Burri, The Villa Savoye, 1959

The building in its abandoned state was documented in 1959 in a series of memorable photographs by Magnum photographer René Burri.


  1. "History", Villa Savoye - Le Corbusier. Retrieved June 28, 2018
  2. Ibid.
  3. Bashar Al Shawa, "The DARKER Side of Villa Savoye", misfits' architecture, September 3, 2011. Retrieved June 28, 2018.
  4. For some of the strained correspondence between Mme Savoye and Le Corbusier, see: Jacques Sbriglio, Le Corbusier - The Villa Savoye (Basel: Birkhäuser Verlag, 2008), 107-109.
  5. Devanshi Shah, "Iconic House: Villa Savoye by Le Corbusier", Architectural Digest, February 5, 2018. Retrieved June 28, 2018.
  6. Quoted in Nadir Lahiji and D.S. Friedman, "At The Sink: Architecture in Abjection", in: Plumbing - Sounding Modern Architecture, eds. Nadir Lahiji and D.S. Friedman, (Princeton: Princeton Architectural Press, 1997) 34-60. "Society scares easily at these aspects of sensuality that it qualifies as obscene," Tschumi continues, citing St. Augustine: " 'Inter faeces et urinam nascimus' (we are born between excrement and urine)."
  7. See: Sbriglio, Le Corbusier - The Villa Savoye, 112-115.
  8. "History", Villa Savoye - Le Corbusier. Retrieved June 28, 2018