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May 10, 2009

I alluded to it in an earlier post on my trip to Switzerland, but one of the highlights of the whole affair was an impromptu stop at Villa Le Lac, a small house Le Corbusier and his cousin Pierre Jeanneret built for his parents in 1923 literally on the banks of Lake Geneva in Corseax, Switzerland.

Climbing across the rocks to sneak onto the grounds of Le Corbusier's Villa Le Lac in Corseax, Switzerland. Photo by Illya Azaroff.
Climbing across the rocks to sneak onto the grounds of Le Corbusier's Villa Le Lac in Corseax, Switzerland. Photo by Illya Azaroff.
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Graphic designer Simon Johnston (with his back to us) and I examine the drop into the small house's garden. Photo by Illya Azaroff.
Graphic designer Simon Johnston (with his back to us) and I examine the drop into the small house's garden. Photo by Illya Azaroff.
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The view from the house's small garden, and the wall I was standing on to take the photo, is spectacular.
The view from the house's small garden, and the wall I was standing on to take the photo, is spectacular.
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Climbing across the rocks to sneak onto the grounds of Le Corbusier's Villa Le Lac in Corseax, Switzerland. Photo by Illya Azaroff.
Climbing across the rocks to sneak onto the grounds of Le Corbusier's Villa Le Lac in Corseax, Switzerland. Photo by Illya Azaroff.
Architect 

Our tour missed regular business hours, 9:00-5:30 on Wednesdays only, but quickly poured out of the van to start snapping pictures over the shoulder-high wall. The house itself is quite small, though the garden’s view of the lake—you could literally jump over the seawall into the water—is astounding. A small plot of grass, a massive tree and a cutout in the concrete wall allowing those taking their tea outdoors a framed view of the lake and Alps beyond, make for an intoxicatingly experience, at once utterly humble and the height of luxury.

Graphic designer Simon Johnston (with his back to us) and I examine the drop into the small house's garden. Photo by Illya Azaroff.
Graphic designer Simon Johnston (with his back to us) and I examine the drop into the small house's garden. Photo by Illya Azaroff.

A couple of us climbed the wall for a better view, but soon we unlatched the gate to the little marina next door and walked out on the neighboring dock for a better view. At that point I decided to test my luck walking across an outcropping of wet, mossy rocks to see if I could actually climb over the seawall and hoist myself into the backyard. Rubber-soled shoes and a small ledge on the wall helped me over and just like that I was there alongside Madame et Monsieur Jeanneret, enjoying the view of the lake—I would have to work to keep out of it on my way back to the van—and wandering around the still locked-tight house.
The view from the house's small garden, and the wall I was standing on to take the photo, is spectacular.
The view from the house's small garden, and the wall I was standing on to take the photo, is spectacular.

I did manage to peek in the window to find a rather modest abode now turned into a little museum. I lingered a few moments more, suddenly realizing that I was properly breaking the law and sensing that my tourmates were growing weary of watching me have all the fun, before climbing back over the wall, skittering across the rocks and dashing back to the van.

I did manage to avoid arrest, got quite an architectural thrill and only had a scuffed brogue and dirtied corduroys to show for it. A trade the ever-dapper Corbu himself might have made.

Top two photos by Illya Azaroff.

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