The staging of conventional life in Le Corbusier's 1930s interiors

Gough, Tim (2008) The staging of conventional life in Le Corbusier's 1930s interiors. In: Staging the modern interior : 10th Dorich House Annual Conference, Kingston University; 15 - 16 May 2008, Kingston upon Thames. (Unpublished)


In one extreme corner of Le Corbusier's Paris apartment, designed by him in 1932, is a small niche, tucked into the side of the bedroom, named "La cabine de toilette" in the Oeuvre Complete, associated with the adjacent dressing table and mirror, and shown on the published contemporary plan. An intimate, cave-like space with washbasin and sit-up tub, lit from above not by the horizontal strip windows featuring elsewhere, but by a small dormer (overlooking the Bois de Boulogne), this evidently feminine space is juxtaposed with the other cave-like space within the bedroom, again adjacent to a washbasin - this time a masculine, upright shower space, lit by narrow vertical slots from the side. Omitted from contemporary plans and photographs, and located at the diagonally opposite corner of the flat to the cabine de toilette, is a second cave-like space, similar in scale, similarly lit with an individual window (this time overlooking the adjacent sports field) and located off Le Corbusier's studio, where he worked each morning on his paintings and sculpture. This space is furnished with a desk and book shelves. Again, a masculine space. If the habitus is embodied history, internalised as second nature, but in this case made explicit; and if, following Colomina's expose of Corbusier's rape of Eileen Grey's house at the Cap Martin we can assume a degree of conscious reinforcement of gender performativity on his part, then the stretching and playing of the inhabitation of this apartment between these two corners and within the bedroom space raises the question of the desirability or otherwise of the staging of everyday life in terms of such binary, conventional oppositions. This paper will address this question having an eye to that other contemporaneous corbusian masterpiece of staging, the apartment Bestigui on the Champs-E'lyse.

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