'Les Heures Claires' is a phrase meaning the 'bright hours', and was a fitting nickname for one of the icons of twentieth century architecture - a house designed for light, space and efficiency. It's also the title of a new book, an illustrated re-imagining of the commissioning, design, construction and occupation of the Villa Savoye by its original clients, Pierre and Eugénie Savoye. Created by the clients' grandson, Jean-Marc Savoye, in collaboration with the painter and illustrator Jean-Philippe Delhomme, Les Heures Claires blends archive material with personal recollection and new illustrations.
The Savoyes endured a troubled relationship with Le Corbusier, not least because of spiralling budgets and technical challenges. They eventually moved into the house in 1931, three years after the initial commission, only to leave again in 1940, after which occupation and desecration almost destroyed the building. It wasn't until 1997 that it stood pristine once again.
Despite its familiarity, there are barely any photographs of the original owners using the house as the architect intended. This is where Delhomme steps in. With his characteristic fluid line and vivid colours, he depicts the trials and tribulations of the client, house and architects.
Delhomme has an eye for architecture. He works from a beautiful atelier on the iconic rue Campagne-Premiere, a Parisian street known for being the home of a plethora of artists over the years, including Yves Klein, Marcel Duchamp and the poet Rainer Maria Rilke, as well as being a location for Jean-Luc Godard's À Bout De Souffle. In fact the building on No 9, where Delhomme's studio is located, has its own story to tell, having been built as a group of painters' ateliers in the early 1900s by local architect Taberle, using materials from the Paris Expo of 1889. Having moved there 15 years ago, Delhomme has left the studio in its original state as much as possible, respectful to its history and architectural character.
His work on the Villa Savoye was approached with the same sensitiviy. An upcoming exhibition on Le Corbusier at the Centre Georges Pompidou is sure to spark some interest, especially in the more human dimension showcased here.