rational architecture

Georges Candilis

Georges Candilis was born in Baku, Azerbaijan, and grew up in Athens, Greece, where he studied architecture and met great French architect Le Corbusier in the early 30s. He became one of his closest workshop collaborator and worked on the construction of La Cité Radieuse, Le Corbusier’s masterpiece in Marseille, developing some architectural principles like planned urbanism and « habitat au plus grand nombre » as logic responses to the growth and the changes of individual housing. Founding member of the Team X (or Team Ten), he then specialized with his partners Alexis Josic and Shadrach Woods in large scale projects for affordable and inclusive housing in the 50s like the Mirail in Toulouse or The Free University in Berlin, as well as projects in Casablanca. His rational and democratic approach of architecture led him to design a modular plastic camping unit known as « Hexacube » and a whole holiday resort in Port-Leucate, Les Carrats, with Finnish interior designer Anja Blomstedt (who also worked with Charlotte Perriand at the time). They had an idea of cheap and very simple furniture that are easy to disassemble and transport, consisting of simple pieces of solid wood or plywood held in place with aluminium angle brackets. The pieces were made and assembled by the Sentou workshops, and only a few hundred pieces of this rare edition remain nowadays.

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The Cubist Garden of Villa Noailles in Hyères, France by Gabriel Guévrékian [1926]. The architect was an ethic Armenian from Constantinople [now Istanbul] who was raised in Tehran and studied in Vienna. This combination of east and west had a profound impact on his architectural style. Here he clashed what he learned in Vienna and Paris, cubism and bauhaus, with the architecture he saw growing up, the paradisiacal concept of the Persian garden. The word paradise itself comes from the Old Persian term for a walled enclosure or garden. 

The villa Noailles features as one of the very first modernist style buildings constructed in France. Designed in December 1923, the original villa was built for Charles and Marie-Laure de Noailles by the architect Rob Mallet-Stevens and exhibits the founding tenets of the rationalist movement: practicality, a purification of decorative features, roofs, terraces, light, hygiene… The extensions, which continued right up until 1933, along with the exceptional development of the surrounding property (courtyard and gardens), turned a modest holiday home into a true 1800m2, immobile ocean liner: fifteen master bedrooms all with en-suite bathrooms, a swimming pool, a squash court, a hairdressing salon, a resident gym instructor, etc.

Features such as the clocks, which are all controlled by a central system, the retracting bay-windows and the mirrored windows, all contribute to the modernity of the site. A heliotropic house, overlooking the bay of Hyères, the villa Noailles celebrated a new lifestyle which favoured body and nature. The interior decoration called upon an impressive list of prominent figures: Louis Barillet for the stain glass windows, Pierre Chareau, Eileen Gray, Djo-Bourgeois, and Francis Jourdain for the furniture, Gabriel Guévrékian for the cubist garden, and Mondrian, Henri Laurens, Jacques Lipchitz, Constantin Brancusi, and Alberto Giacometti for the art works.

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Giovanni Guerrini, Ernesto Bruno La Padula and Mario Romano

Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana, 1938–’43

EUR, Rome

Façade, cross section, ground-floor plan

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Organic Rationalism in Buenos Aires

Fully immersed in greenery, a rationalist style house, designed by Rodriguez Etcheto in 1957, is now revived through contemporary creativity and historic design, by its new owner, architect Mauro Bernardini, co-founder of the Plan Architecture Studio.

Palazzo Braschi, functioning as the National Fascist Party headquarters, Rome, 1934