Elemental Sophistication

Location : SPTT

Status : Completed Nov 2014

On the sloping bank of Eveux-sur-Arbresle, somewhere near Lyon, an architect sat in one of the long, narrow cells at the Convent of La Tourette. There in the midst of nature, at a desk space designed to make one focus, Matthew sat down and set out to design a villa. Although MJMDA, known to be a multi-disciplinary architectural firm, usually designs with the intent to bring buildings to their final user ready state, in this case the process would be a little different. The interior decoration would be done by the client, Rachel Balzan Demajo, whom together with her husband, wanted to be highly involved in the overall design of their family home.

Inspired by the buildings that were visited on an architectural pilgrimage to pay homage one of the masters, Le Corbusier, Matthew set out to design a mass that had the seeds of modernism that could so well be applied with his design philosophy and a contemporary context.

As one approaches the house from a narrow country road the villa’s stark exterior stands out against the sky. Its bold intersecting volumes, made up of two horizontal masses, is, of course, painted white, as “by law, all buildings should be white”. Made-up of clean, simple lines the architecture provides a perfect blank canvas for the creative, eclectic decorative touches of SAKS. The bottom ribbon of the façade is pierced with peep-through windows, their shapes and position reminiscent of the modernist Notre Dam du Haute, one of Le Corbusier’s works in Ronchamp. These give a cheeky glimpse of the colorful interior. The laser cut steel work shutters, one of Rachel’s customized touches, give a sense of privacy to the family.

The upper volume, the framework of which floats over the front garden and the lower ribbon, has the telltale proportions of a mass triggered by a Villa Savoy.

Going up to the porch, the lower volume becomes even cleaner – only the soft blue front door pierces the volume that would set the tone for houses interior. Opposite, a concrete skylight provides light for the basement, and creates visual curiosity for guests as they wait outside.

Beyond the porch lies the exterior entertainment area; the barbeque area and outdoor dining are carpeted by turf for a more playful feel with a link to the kitchen via an opening for when the hosts are caught up in the kitchen.

The back façade mirrors the Villa’s frontage, yet here the bottom mass is open, taking advantage of the views.