Le Corbusier's Summer Cottage is Reconstructed

One day in 1951, Le Corbusier sat down and in 45 minutes designed a summer cottage as a birthday present for his wife. Called Cabanon, it was built beside the sea, near Nice, France, where he ultimately drowned ten years later. Now its actual interior has been painstakingly reconstructed inside a room at the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) building.

Inside a room? Yes, because this is a very small and compact cottage. Cabanon means small cabin and also a place where shepherds could rest, so the word has primitive connotations. It is a 15 sq. metre structure whose exterior was a log cabin. It is of interest because it represents a distillation of the architect’s ideas on minimal living. Its interiors are based on a career’s worth of contemplation. Home is where the heart is.

This is the only structure Le Corbusier ever built for his own use. As such, the interior is decorated with murals and simple bespoke furniture and fittings. It gives an intimate insight into his world.

The one room unpretentious cabin contains a built-in bench/bed, a table, stool, sink and toilet. The genius is in the details, of course. The sink/kitchen area has built-in shelves and little else since he ate in the near-by restaurant. The table lifts up. The furniture is boxed-shape and all made of wood. It is a "synthesis between conception and construction." It shows how rewarding simplicity can be.

Its beauty is in the quality of the detail and materials used in its construction. The windows (pictured above) are like shutters, with half of the louvre mirrored to bring the landscape inside, and his painting on the other side.

The ceiling is panelled in squares of lovely colours such as red, blue, white and red and the different heights allow storage above.

There is a long narrow rectangular screen, covered by a door, in the bathroom for air.

Corb was a painter, although his wife thought his pictures were terrible, and he has painted the entrance hall wall and one of the folding windows with Picasso-esque brightly coloured murals.

It's all part of a Le Corbusier extravaganza, with a big exhibition at a museum and walks, music, films, and lectures. RIBA

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