House as Art: Villa La Roche

"La Roche, with a collection as beautiful as yours," said Le Corbusier sometime in 1923, "you must have a house built that is worthy of it."

And so the Swiss banker and art collector Raoul La Roche promptly commissioned Le Corbusier to design him that worthy house in Paris. In its sweeping gallery, La Roche would display his collection of Cubist and Purist art.

When I visited Villa La Roche, it was practically empty. Only a few paintings and pieces of furniture remained. What revealed itself was the house as a striking piece of abstract art: sculptural and sensual, with sharp perspectives illuminated by natural light, and a diverse palette of colors as modern today as they were in 1923.

In its emptiness, from light fixtures that suggest a far higher form of illumination, to the fluid union of surfaces, the house becomes the art, even perhaps eclipsing the great collection that surrounded Raoul La Roche so long ago.