May 10, 2016
Today, we have scheduled a tour of two homes designed by one architect familiar to most fans of early 20th century architecture and one architect who isn’t. Le Corbusier or Corbu to most is responsible for many great buildings located in France during the 1920’s. There isn’t space to go into his accomplishments here but if you search for him, you’ll likely see many buildings of his that you are familiar with. The structure we went to visit in Roquebrune-Cap-Martin is a small cabin that he designed as a gift to his wife and constructed it on the edge of the coast (actually 250 feet above the water) facing the azur waters of the Mediterranean. He came to the 12’x 12′ cabin as a vacation get away spot for he and his wife. I have the impression that he came here alone quite often as his wife was not ammused by his reference to the place as his ‘chateau’. And being an architect who can’t really ever go on total holiday, he soon built a small studio on the same property where he is purported to have designed one of his signature buildings Ronchamp.
Also as part of the tour is the home designed by an Irish architect named Eileen Gray. Her main claim to notoriety is as a furniture designer and the home is filled with some original and many reproductions of her innovative designs. The house is pure modernism in its scale, use of materials and sterile lack of adornment which is characteristic of modernism in general. One interesting historical connection to Le Corbusier is the ‘graffiti’ that he added to the interior walls while Eileen Gray was back home in Ireland. Upon returning, she was pretty angry about the violation of the purity of her blank walls but she didn’t remove them.
A travel note: the property is only open for the first time this May and is still undergoing renovations. It is still a worthwhile stop if you are in the area but you need to buy tickets on-line ahead of time. Tours are small in number so reserve early if you can.
After several miles and numerous flights of stairs working our way from our parking spot by the train station to the sites of the Corbu/Gray homes, we were in need of sustainence so we drove up to the village of Roquebrune (which translates to ‘brown rock’) and found a little Italian restaruant called Le Grotte where we could sit and enjoy the beautiful weather. By the way, we are very close to Italy which influences living in this area with a mixture of Italian and French restaruants and language use.
From Roquebrune-Cap-Martin we headed up into the hills to Eze. Eze is a tourist hot spot with plenty of high end shopping but the value of making the visit to the little town is the amazing view of the Mediterranean that you have from the highest point. It’s worth the climb. You can take your time with numorous stops at little cafe’s along the way (be warned, the higher you go, the more expensive it gets) but once you get to the top (after paying 5 Euros to enter the exotic garen) you are treated to a beautiful treat of the French coast below. We had a birds eye view of the penninsula Cap Ferrat where we were staying.
What a day. We are wearing ourselves (and shoes) out at an amazing pace. There is soooo much to experience here and we know we are just touching the surface but we are laying a foundation for future return trips–we hope.
Tomorrow? The weather is supposed to be rainy so it’s time to hit the museums!