The atelier of the painter Amédée Ozenfant´s house is builted in 1922 embodies a synthesis of the purist space proclaimed by Le Corbusier during those years. This house is the first one in Paris and in it he puts into practice his ideas regarding the architecture of the new times.
Ozenfant and Le Corbusier shared a plastic idea narrated between 1918 and 1924 in the L’Éspirit Nouveau magazine. Ozenfant was the author of the term Purism to identify the pictorial movement founded by both and that, despite Le Corbusier, also labels the architectural works made by him in the 20s.
“Ozenfant’s study was a small fragment of Le Corbusier’s machinist dream: a clear sanctuary dedicated to L’Espirit Nouveau”.1
The saw teeth that were part of the original design of the roof – now non-existent – and in the modulated windows, establish a novel disagreement in the image of the traditional dwelling. The transparent planes are placed flush with the outer wall to acquire an image of enormous weightlessness. The contrast between the plastic design of the outer staircase in the form of a rolled tape and the rigid structure of the main volume is a ploy frequently used by Le Corbusier: the conjunction of opposing geometries to enhance the quality of both by contrast.
Both the mechanical references and the abstract form of a pure geometry coincide with the purist pictorial principles proclaimed in the magazine. In this regard, Frampton points out that in the Ozenfant workshop, Le Corbusier
“It transposes, so to speak, the Citrohan prototype to a single cubic volume, the workshop, around which the rest of the house is arranged relatively uncomfortably. The double height workshop is illuminated on two adjacent sides and by a glazed roof chassis. It is, manifestly, as opposed to housing stays, the privileged purist space”.2
It is indeed in the atelier located on the upper floor where the idea is manifested with greater emphasis. The use of natural zenithal lighting, filtered by a smoked glass ceiling, allows the light to be distributed evenly and gives the premises a novel and practical character. The north and east orientation of the outer sides of the land facilitate the intention of placing large carpentry cloths on both sides, simplifying the light sources. The superposition of both actions consumes a uniform distribution of natural light throughout the space.
The carpentry design responds to that proclaimed industrial logic, and although they were made by hand, they resemble the result of a serial production. The ladder that leads to the loft confirms that machinist vision. It presents an evident similarity with the internal stairs of the ships, poetic evocation to the steam engine.
Le Corbusier externalizes in this work his eagerness to transform the modern environment in a rational way, by means of universal character forms that express his taste for geometry and his interest in the mechanized world. The purist space represented here is the beginning of a journey that will not be linear, but that is based on some of the concepts that germinate in this work.
Marcelo Gardinetti. Architect
La Plata. Argentina. September 2018