Monday, June 11, 2012

Le Corbusier's 'Cabanon' at Le Bon Marché

If you’re not already mad at the sky for being cloudy, go to the small exhibition on Le Corbusier’s beach cabin at Le Bon Marché, on until June 23rd.

The furniture department at Le Bon Marché is generally something of a museum of twentieth century design, but at the moment their displays are centered around a reproduction of Le Cabanon, the small wooden beach house that Le Corbusier built for himself and his wife at Roquebrune-Cap-Martin in 1952. Only eleven square metres, it fits neatly under the department’s leadlight roof.

They haven’t recreated the exterior of the cabin, which is transformed from a rustic wooden shed to a mysterious black box. There’s information on Le Corbusier’s work generally and on the cabin particularly, and visitors can step inside and examine the sparse interior. Everything is reduced to the essential and so the small space doesn’t feel cluttered. Wood surfaces cover everything, with few windows, clearly designed for the sunny climate of the south of France. Looking at photographs of the original, it appears the major difference in the interior is the light.

Roquebrune-Cap-Martin’s sunny climate also isn’t reproduced at Le Bon Marche, though signs around the store point playfully to various southerly destinations. They have, however, covered one side of the passage crossing Rue du Bac with an image of the view from Le Corbusier’s cabin and the other side of photographs and plans for the original structure. Le Corbusier is shown in his bathing suit and signature round glasses, and even in black and white photographs it’s easy to appreciate how the structure would operate in the bright light for which it was intended.

There are also photos and information on L’Etoile du Mer, the Roquebrune-Cap-Martin restaurant which Le Corbusier decorated and frequented over the course of his summers on the coast. Le Corbusier and his wife went to Roquebrune-Cap-Martin every summer until his death (unfortunately while swimming in the area) in 1965.

This is a small exhibition, but offers a nice introduction to an aspect of Le Corbusier’s oeuvre which is discussed much less than the rest. It also left me fairly desperate to visit Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, where you can see this cabin and more of Le Corbusier’s seaside architecture, and generally just eager for warm weather and swimming… so, perhaps, be warned that it might pique daydreams.

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