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Exploring Le Corbusier's Weissenhof Experiment: A Journey into Modern Architecture

Last weekend my husband and I had the pleasure of visiting Affalterbach, a charming village near Stuttgart, to celebrate a friend's birthday. With a few hours to spare before catching our flights back home, we...

Last weekend my husband and I had the pleasure of visiting Affalterbach, a charming village near Stuttgart, to celebrate a friend's birthday. With a few hours to spare before catching our flights back home, we were eager to make the most of our time in Stuttgart, a city known for its captivating attractions.

Discovering Stuttgart's Architectural Gems

Stuttgart boasts an array of fascinating attractions, from the renowned Porsche Museum and the Daimler Museum to the Staatsgalerie and the Weissenhofsiedlung. We began our journey by immersing ourselves in the world of extraordinary sports cars, with the "James Dean," or as he referred to it, "My Little Bastard," capturing my heart.

Next, we made our way to the Weissenhofsiedlung, an UNESCO heritage site, to explore Le Corbusier's famous duplex. As luck would have it, a guided tour began just minutes after our arrival, allowing us to join in and delve into the captivating history and the enigmatic persona of its creator. Guided tours always add an extra layer of depth to the experience, bringing history to life in a way that words alone cannot.

Weissenhof, Le Corbusier's Duplex Fig 1: Le Corbusier's Duplex at the Weissenhofsiedlung

Unveiling Le Corbusier's Architectural Masterpiece

During the tour, we discovered several intriguing facts about Le Corbusier's Weissenhof Experiment, which epitomized the unique features that set his creation apart from traditional homes of the time. Here are five key takeaways that left a lasting impression:

Pillars: The Foundation of Lightness and Ingenuity

The steel pillars, also known as pilotis, are the unsung heroes of the entire construction. These pillars not only give the building a sense of weightlessness but also provide essential support from floor to roof. Spaced at intervals of 2.20m, they offer both stability and aesthetic appeal. Le Corbusier's "Dom-ino" house concept, based on these pillars, remains one of his most significant contributions to architecture.

Liberating Walls for Creative Possibilities

With the pillars taking on the structural load, the need for load-bearing exterior and interior walls vanished. This newfound flexibility allowed for innovative designs in the facade, windows, and overall interior layout. Le Corbusier seized the opportunity to incorporate generously sized windows in place of traditional load-bearing walls, bathing the living spaces in natural light.

Expansive Ribbon Windows: Embracing Light and Luxury

The cantilevering facade, elegantly wrapping around the building, showcased a balcony-style design. This design choice, made possible by the freed-up exterior walls, enabled Le Corbusier to create large ribbon windows that flooded the homes with abundant natural light. For working-class families of that era, such a luxury was truly remarkable.

Flexibility in Floor Planning: A "Machine for Living"

Thanks to the pillar structure, interior walls were no longer necessary, enabling Le Corbusier to reimagine the floor plan as a "machine for living." The absence of load-bearing walls allowed for the optimization of combined living and bedroom spaces. Movable partitions could be utilized to enhance flexibility, ensuring efficient use of every inch.

Rooftop Terrace: A Glimpse into Stuttgart's Splendor

Following the modern architectural trend of flat-roofed houses, Le Corbusier transformed the flat roof of the duplex into a breathtaking terrace. This elevated space offered unparalleled views of Stuttgart's city center, while artistically framing the surroundings. Le Corbusier's vision also included a garden, adding a touch of nature to the urban setting.

IMG_0026 Fig 2: Rooftop Terrace at the Weissenhof Duplex

Unveiling Le Corbusier's Architectural Masterpiece

In addition to these five major concepts, Le Corbusier incorporated other ingenious ideas to maximize the limited space available. Beds hidden within large closets, movable partitions, and the strategic use of blue paint to create a sense of spaciousness were just a few examples. While not everyone found Le Corbusier's approach entirely practical, his vision paved the way for further architectural exploration.

Two years after the Weissenhof Experiment, Le Corbusier created his magnum opus, the Villa Savoye. This iconic residential building drew upon the five central concepts witnessed at the Weissenhof Duplex, solidifying Le Corbusier's legacy in the annals of architecture.

Cheers, Sabine