James Ackerman and the Villa Savoye

Ackerman refers to the ideology/myth of the villa as “a concept or myth so firmly rooted in the unconscious that it is held as an incontrovertible truth.” For Marxists, he says, this kind of ideology is a “means by which the dominant class reinforces and justifies the social and economic structure and its privileged position within it while obscuring its motivation from itself and others”.

The Villa Savoye does not reinforce the power and wealth of the rich but challenges or radically repositions it. The house is neither integrated with nature nor placed on a podium to symbolize stability and power. It is lifted off the ground on piloti, and it floats in the air like a sailing ship. Its ties to the land it sits on are questioned. The land it takes up is reproduced atop its flat roof. The horizontal window abstracts the landscape: instead of providing a continued picture frame from land to horizon to sky, it reveals a widescreen slit of the distant horizon. It uses industrial material, and the only forms of luxury its ascetic lifestyle contains are bread, milk, fish, etc. There is still a servant’s lodge and there is still the eternal program that intends to facilitate “enjoyment and relaxation”. But the Villa Savoye is made not just for its patron. It serves to advance a political and cultural idea through architecture and thus to impact society as well as the client who pays for it.

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