The device wall-window | Santiago Carvajal

The following text is born of the worry generated from the review meddled to two projects of Le Corbusier: The small house in Corseaux-Vevey of 1923 and the villa Savoye of 1928, I have wondered why the placement of walls and windows where seemingly it is not necessary to have, the one in the terrace of the villa Savoye and other one in the south garden of the house Corseaux-Vevey. Something that me turns out to be strange is that in both projects a wall constructs itself opposite to a few magnificent conference, and this is something that across the following text will treat me of answering. Fodder that finding response to these questions is possible to find values, which seemingly insignificant, they serve to project; I feel that it is possible to find these answers in the origin itself of the architecture, and it is exactly thereabouts where I initiate. As strategy, they are recognized, three aspects for the development of this investigation, object, topic and problem, in this case the object they are two works of Le Corbusier, the topic they are these walls – windows especially, and the problem is why of the disposition of these in seemingly chance places. For it I wonder, what is an architecture?, which is his assignment?, which is his origin?

I think about the origins of the architecture, a long before the classic cánones of beauty, of his orders, of Vitruvio. Some authors hold that the origin of the architecture is in the primitive cabin shaped by trunks of trees and skins of animals, arranged somehow in order that, under her, it could shelter one or one group of persons, the original gesture, have of a cover that protects them from the outdoors and from the immensity of the planet in this remote epoch. If we go more behind in the time, it is said that, the first architecture it are the caverns, this concavity of rocky, surface humid and dark, invaded and domesticated by the man to assure a refuge him.

2001: To space odyssey, the dawn of the man, the director Stanley Kubrick, 1968.

This way, one of the original gestures of the architecture is of establishing relations with the world, allowing the man, to be orientated with regard to the geography that surrounds, to the mountains, the dawn, the west. Under this reflection, let’s check at the time some projects of Him Corbusier, and let’s see what we can find.

The residence Corseaux-Vevey (latitude 46°28 ` N, length 6°49 ` E), organizes his spaces along a horizontal window orientated towards the south, taking advantage this way, in this north latitude, of the solar austral light and especially the scanty low winter light. His north front, it is a blind wall with moderate openings that it protects to the house of the cold winds of the north. In the corner South – East arranges a court shaped by a wall, a table and a tree that accompanies the space like a parasol, the wall pierced like a window, orientated towards the south, fits his conference towards the lake Léman, on him, of so much while a boat appears, to the bottom the spectacle of the mountains of the Alps.

Sketch marries in Corseaux-Vevey. Le Corbusier Le Grand, Phaidon, New York, 2008. P. 150.

The raised problem: a house for two alone persons, without service I domesticate. Region: the this end of the lake Léman; on the banks of the lake in the dominant hillside; frontal sight in the southern part. One came from form opposite to the used thing: there was established the rigorous plan of the house, functional, answering exactly to the program, real small machine to live. Then, with the plane in the pocket, I look for the area that might be convenient.[1]

.… making enter the house the greatness of a magnificent place: the lake, with his movement, the Alps, with the miracle of the light.” [2]

Photography marries in Corseaux-Vevey, towards the Alps | Unknown  source

This resource of fitting the landscape we find it in the villa Savoye, (latitude 48°55 ` N, length 2°01 ` E), when at the end of the ramp and of the whole promenade he arranges of a wall pierced like a window. In the terrace across this perforated wall, it appreciates the nature from a higher point, this is at the level of the glasses of the trees.

Terrace in Villa Savoie. Le Corbusier Le Grand, Phaidon, New York, 2008. P. 209.

Someone was thinking that the placement of these windows is an act of God or isolated, since this way I did it, but when Le Corbusier inspect the season-tickets of trips, we see that, this resource is glimpsed by Jeanneret already in 1911, before at least that has constructed his famous works, this it testifies his drawings of trip to east, voyage where the young person Jeanneret explores the world observing it in an attentive and sharp way. For four years buildings and places dedicate to being studied, taking note, drawing, measuring, and questioning things.

Specifically in the sketch of the Ema’s Carthusian one, located in Florencia’s surroundings, at the end of the corridor in the cells of the monks, a window frames the landscape of toscana, this fact is registered and valued by the young person Jeanneret across the drawing, be obvious as the horizon of the mountains and his vertical one, the column of the corridor, they form an angle of 90 degrees, this sketch is accompanied by other one that consists of a plant of one of the cells of the Carthusian one where it plans an arrow with the word vue, this is, the sight from the high corridor of the cell, towards the tenuous reflection of the light of the valley, together with the sinuous profile of the Italian horizon, one notice that the point of the column in plant, this strong planned mind.

Perspective of Carthusian towards horizon. Origin: JEANNERET, Ch.-Edouard, Voyage d ‘ Orient Carnets, Electraarchitecture, Foundation L.C. Milan, 2002. Season-ticket 6.p.15 | Sketch of the plant of the Ema’s Carthusian one. Origin: JEANNERET, Ch.-Edouard, Voyage d ‘ Orient Carnets, Electraarchitecture, Foundation L.C. Milan, 2002. Season-ticket 6.p.13.

Other one of his sketches, registers this way of estimating the nature, sketch realized in his visit to the mount Athos, from his room of the hotel karyes in the sacred mountain, draws, to the right of his composition the mount, a vertical pyramid, vegetation in his skirts, and to the left side dress infinite towards the horizontal sea in rest, from his room, Jeanneret draws, thinks  “I possess what I see”.

Sketch of mount Athos from the hotel Karyes. Origin: JEANNERET, Ch.-Edouard, Voyage d’ Orient Carnets, Electraarchitecture, Foundation L.C. Milano, 2002. Carnet 3 .p.53

This sensibility, not only it is observed in his drawings, but also Voyage d’Orient is read in his notes registered in his book Him, published little before his death, the text registers the sharp impressions of his visit to the Athos.

The cypresses were black, the convent of the most delicate grey, the olive groves of greenish silver and the sky of a green crude oil invaded by violet come from the sea and from the white stars of the zénit, which entered scene this mobile set which luminous ramp was going out…[3]

The monastery of the Tourette at 1953 (latitude 45°49 ` N, length 4°37 ` E), is shaped by three blocks of cells that turn concerning a cloister, orientated each one eastward, South and West, the set is delimited in his front North by the church, this one closes the whole set as a great blind wall that it protects to the cloister of the cold winds of the North, with regard to the disposition of these blocks, there is something that always has been called me the attention, that is the separation that exists between the blocks of cells and the church, is something that even it makes small, it was not managing to guess fullly the definitive reason of this operation, there exist several motives of this separation, which I consider to be more powerful is to leave this emptiness in order that the same architecture fits the landscape, a seemingly innocent operation, which on having been so obvious, personally, had left her to overlook, but it is exactly there where the good architecture becomes present. The monastery of The Tourette, a device that stimulates the man to have a contemplative approximation towards the nature and the landscape, of a silent way, of meditation, is precisely what stimulates the monks, to thinking about the place in which they live. The space between the church and other dependences they frame the landscape of a monumental way for his size, (let’s remember the small windows in both previous projects). Architectural elements as: the balcony, the “sub-machine guns of light” of the sacristy, the ramp, the chimney, and the bridge in the terrace, create a strong sculptural composition, between natural landscape and constructed landscape.

The monastery of the Tourette |

The first outline of architecture begins with the man and his attitude with regard to the geographical situation in the one that lives. Choosing the place there is committed the criminal or valid act of the architecture. Being aware of how it is his topography, the horizon, the cyclical tour of the Sun in the course of the day, Le Corbusier takes project decisions. Horizon, solar orientation and topography are local factors that expect to be projected and vivenciados. In this case, Le Corbusier takes these local elements to plan them as part of the project.

Terrace in The monastery of the Tourette. Origin: COPANS, Richard, Le couvent de la Tourette, video.

If we give revision to the book It Brings over of the Purism of Ozenfant and Jeanneret, in the page sixty eight, they were admitting as a value of the art the being capable of perceiving the order of the nature “One of the major delights of the human spirit is to perceive the order of the nature and to measure his own participation in the order of the things; there looks like the work of art to us that it is a work of arrangement, a masterpiece of human order.[4] This way, the Monastery of the Tourette takes position with regard to the world, his architecture they turn into the measure that it makes measurable and therefore valuably to the geography, and to the landscape, it allows to his inhabitant to admit the order of the nature and to measure his participation in this order. Everything starts receiving sense when we inspect other works of Le Corbusier.

The key of his architecture? A device, to do to the commensurable, valuable landscape, since “… the omnipresent landscape on all the fronts, omnipotent, ends up by tiring … have you observed that in such conditions one does not look at him any more? In order that the landscape is had in account it is necessary to limit it …” [5], and this way it is done, in the pavilion L’Esprit Nouveau of 1924, by the department Beistegui of 1929, in the Unité d’habitation of Marseilles of 1945, in the Monastery of the Tourette of 1953, his architecture intensifies the experience of the spectator towards the landscape, the key, a high wall, after him the city hides itself, wing you see that this wall does of base for the spectacle of the distant horizon, the mountains, the clouds, the luminosity of the sky from the dawn up to the late afternoon, with all his colors. To be in the terrace of the Unité of Marseilles is to be in the cover of the transatlantic one beached on the banks of Marseilles, between the sea and the mountains. How many persons pay for a cruise every year, being able to live in one? In the terrace, removed from the noise of the city, rest, the Sun, space, air, theatre, scattering, sport.

Terrace in the Unité of Marseilles | Photography: Akihito Morita |

“I believe that at least once in the life the man should concentrate his mind in the recollection of the land. It should submit to a landscape of his life. Especially, about looking at it from so many angles since could, wonder it brings over of this one, to dwell in him … I am interested in the way in which a man looks at a certain landscape and takes possession of this one in his body and in his mind[6]

Santiago Carvajal. architect

Cuenca (Ecuador). september 2013


1. BALTANÁS, José, Le Corbusier, promenades,

Gustavo Gili, Barcelona 2005.p.37

2. Ibidem.p.38

3. JEANNERET, Charles Edouard, Le Voyage d´Orient,

Colegio oficial de aparejadores y arquitectos técnicos de Madrid, 1984. Extracto p. 145

4. OZENFANT, Amédée, JEANNERET, Charles Edouard, Acerca del Purismo escritos1918-1926,

Madrid, El croquis editorial, 1993, p. 68.

5. BALTANÁS, José, le corbusier, promenades,

Gustavo Gili, Barcelona 2005.p.37

Santiago Carvajal Ochoa

Magister en Proyectos Arquitectónicos. Profesor de la Universidad del Azuay, Cuenca Ecuador. Experto en el uso de herramientas BIM + CAD (ArchiCAD con dos licencias de uso) para desarrollo de diseño y documentación de proyectos, cursos impartidos en Cuenca, Quito y Guayaquil.

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