Ronchamp, Notre Dame du Haut Le Corbusier 1955
Visiting Le Corbusier’s Ronchamp chapel is a very moving, spiritual experience, even for the non-religious. The small, yet immensely powerful structure sits high atop a hill in a small town on the border with Switzerland and Germany, just a few hours southeast of Paris. The building has a very simple floor plan while the form is complex and organic. A massive curvilinear roof floats above thick, gently curving white plastered concrete walls, which are punctuated by tapered windows of varied size and proportion. The light emitted through these deep openings is varied in color and intensity and it bathes the interior in a magical light. An exterior chapel is set into one side of the building, eroding the typical boundary between an enclosed place of worship and the landscape.
Saynatsalo Town Hall, Alvar Aalto, 1952
Arriving at Aalto’s Saynatsalo Town Hall a few hours north of Helsinki is much like visiting a small, walled medieval town where glimpses of the central square beckon. A modulated two-story brick structure and tower are wrapped around an intimate elevated courtyard whose walls are made of glass. The structure is mixed use, containing municipal offices, a council chamber, residences and a library; the varied forms, which enclose and celebrate the landscape, speak of the different functions that take place within. One enters the building at the courtyard level after ascending a broad set of steps and a second landscaped, amphitheater-like set of steps spills out from the courtyard offering views and inviting in the low northern sun. The interior is richly detailed with intricate corbelled brickwork, exquisite door hardware and lighting and wooden butterfly trusses designed by Aalto.
Casa Malaparte Adalberto Libera/Curzio Malaparte 1938
Casa Malaparte is a stunningly beautiful structure on the eastern side of the Isle of Capri, approximately an hour and a half walk from the top of the funicular, which takes one to Marina Grande. Although access to the private residence is limited, the view of the structure afforded from a nearby public path is well worth the walk. The house can only be reached from an adjacent path or by boat and a climb up a narrow stair cut into the cliff. It is a very striking form and although it appears in some ways to grow out of the rough cliff, the bold geometry and Pompeian red color make for a delightful contrast and surprise. The linear form reaches out towards the sea and the simple bold roof terrace is accessed by a great swath of stairs, which reads as if cut from the block that was used to sculpt the marvelous compelling form. The house is at once very abstract and very inviting.
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