Fragments d’architecture la villa Noailles 1923-2023from 30 March to 28 May 2023
Since 1923, the Clos Saint Bernard, known as the villa Noailles, has been steadily developing and renewing itself, both in its design and in its uses.
The enthusiasm of the patrons Charles and Marie-Laure de Noailles, increased by the dynamism of the architect Mallet-Stevens, supported by the project architect Léon David, laid the foundation for an ever-changing building.
For its 100th anniversary, let’s take a close look at 10 architectural features of the villa, chosen for their singularities. Let’s pay attention to the history of these elements and the lessons we can learn from them for today’s architecture. Without forgetting the whole, let’s linger over some details and study some unique situations of this building, to get to know it better.
“A fragment, like a small work of art, has to be entirely isolated from the surrounding world and be complete in itself like a hedgehog.” (Friedrich Schlegel)
The origins and history of 10 fragments are presented through models that were especially made and many original documents. Plans and photographs stand alongside the extensive correspondence the architect maintained with his clients. These archives attest to the gradual construction of this architecture, to the changes that took place and the different life cycles of this ” small, interesting house to live in “.
In 2023, these 10 elements are becoming the pretext for 10 architects to learn lessons, to experiment, to inaugurate projects. It is about looking closely at some details that have been deployed to draw inspiration from them and update them. Whether they are rudimentary, hyperfunctional, climatic or geometric, these fragments are as many little architectural theorems that need to be redeployed.
Through models and installations, these 10 separate pieces will be witness to the insights the villa Noailles still provides us with. The 10 architects selected represent an eclectic cast of diverse practices that attest to the many ways of considering architecture.
Curators MBL Architectes:
Benjamin Lafore, Sébastien Martinez-Barat, Nicolas Boulben
→ The open-air bedroom.
→ The flower room.
FLORIAN SUMI ET AGATHE LABAYE (FRANCE)
→ The pink living room’s table.
ROBIN DURAND (SWEDEN/FRANCE)
→ The missing belvedere.
→ The swimming pool ceiling.
BETILLON ET FREYERMUTH (FRANCE)
→ The staircase with a view.
ALLAN MENSAH (FRANCE)
→ The guest footbridge.
→ The Sunshields.
→ The chimney flue.
→ The house on the hill.
This open-air bedroom, directly connected to Charles de Noailles’ room, is a climatic object allowing for outdoor living in all seasons. Placed on a dedicated terrace, it provides direct access to the garden, acting as an intermediary between inside and outside. It used to house Pierre Chareau’s suspended bed and metal tube furniture. The precise mechanisms of the sliding walls are the result of a collaboration with Jean Prouvé.
This room is a volume, an integral part of the villa’s metabolism, but autonomous in its specific use and location.
MANERA is an architecture and landscape studio founded in 2022 by Victor Maréchal and Maria Fernanda Serna in Paris. MANERA focuses on the materialisation of ideas at different scales, from the object to the territory. MANERA claims a hybrid practice at the crossroads of projects, research, installations, and teaching. MANERA’s work was exhibited at the CIVA as part of the Institution Building exhibition in Brussels (BE) and at the Biennale d’Architecture et de Paysage d’Île-de-France BAP! in Versailles (FR). MANERA won the FAIRE competition, organised by the Pavillon de l’Arsenal, with the project Angles.
A very small 1.5m2² room is dedicated to a very specific use: making flower bouquets.
Marie-Laure de Noailles took great care in arranging freshly picked flowers from her garden into bouquets, to display them in the house and welcome all her guests with this attention.
Theo Van Doesburg, a founding member of De Stijl movement, designed the decor. Unable to travel, he sent a drawing of the murals projected on the walls and ceiling. One cannot help but notice the ambiguous parallel between geometric perfection and the ultimate Impressionist subject matter: flowers.
HPO is an emerging community of eleven architects based in Ferrara, Italy. Formed in 2017 to escape university routine and face the job market, HPO has since then worked on temporary installations, exhibitions, events and performances, always maintaining a collaborative approach, open to influence. HPO HQ is the group’s headquarters in Ferrara, from where it operates as part of a hyperconnected province, a rootedness that has nevertheless led the group to exhibit their work in some of the leading European design centres and universities: Akademie der Künste, Berlin; HEAD, Geneva; TU Graz, ENSAP Versailles; Dropcity, Milan.
Special Mention 2022 Premio Biennale di Architectura Federico Maggia.
In 1927, Charles de Noailles commissioned Mallet-Stevens to create a studio in the extension of the entrance hall of the villa. The square-plan room, which fits between the retaining walls of the hill and the rear façade of the villa, is illuminated by a stained-glass ceiling by Louis Barillet. Remarkable, the post is surrounded by two circular platforms. The only round shape in an ultra rectilinear universe, this table is a motionless piece of furniture. More than furniture, this item corresponds to the domestic use of a structural element. It falls into the legal category of mortmain property, an irremovable element: the post turns into a table.
Agathe Labaye is an architect and a colourist, Florian Sumi is a visual artist. They live and work in Paris. Together, they centre their work on the knowledge and the development of techniques, whether they be traditional or industrial, and this, from the architectural scale to that of the object. Their statement: the object makes for architecture.
The duo does not claim any aesthetics. Convinced that the architect is the craftsman of scales, and passionate about a multitude of languages and periods due to their distinct environments - art and architecture, each project allows
them to develop a stylistic theme and a modus operandi of their own. Though nourished by the notion of decor, they prefer the precision of detail to the spectacular and are keen on the notion of permanence.
Since 2018, the studio has worked on many projects, ranging from collectible design represented by the Charles Burnand Gallery in London to hotel concept for the real estate developer Réalité(s), interior design of a seven-building block in Juan-les-Pins, product design for the commercial real estate stakeholder Westfield, the luxury hotel industry with the Hôtel de Pourtalès in Paris, to he creation of boutiques for Statement or even Bon Parfumeur.
Following intense debates between the client and the architect, the belvedere initially erected was lowered upon the request of the owner who deemed it useless and decorative.
Charles de Noailles did not want to show signs of authoritarian presence in the Hyères landscape. The design of this aedicula evokes the metaphor of the liner, an obsession of modern architecture. Mallet-Stevens finally conceded to Charles de Noailles the partial removal of the belvedere, right after it was built. Today, the flag towering over serves as a landmark, as though to let people know that something else was there.
Robin Durand (born in 1989) studied architecture at ENSA-Marseille and La Cambre, Brussels. Graduated in 2013, he then spent several years in Paris as a collaborator in young architecture and landscape agencies, where he worked on projects of diverse scales and natures. There he deepened his interest in the territory and what is already there, the “as found”. At the same time, he studied architectural design and construction. Robin has been teaching architecture
project since 2021 at the Umeå School of Architecture (UMA), located in Umeå, Sweden. There he questions the notions of obviousness and banality and works on developing critical thinking through architecture among students.
In 2022, Robin stayed in Los Angeles for five months as the winner of the MAK-Schindler residency. He developed a work of observation of the daily environment, between fascination and an attempt to decipher then intervene in it. He favours a stance of modesty towards the subject, made possible by the approach of photography but also of the model, set up on scale 1.
The indoor pool is one of the villa’s showpieces. Its ceiling is characteristic of Mallet-Stevens’ Art Deco style. Its structure consists of an imbrication of reinforced concrete rectangles scattered with glass blocks. The ceiling echoes the system deployed for the entire architecture of the villa Noailles: a horizontal blend of rectangular volumes. The ceiling marks the identity of the place and provides a diffuse light. The exchanges between the client and the architect also show the desire to make this element an acoustic feature. The composition of its diagonal lines reduces the sound reverberation.
Founded in 2017 by Maud Lévy and Antoine Vercoutère, the organisation Le Micro- Laboratoire pour l’Architecture et la Ville (MLAV.LAND, “the Micro Laboratory for Architecture and the City”) is a territory for research, experimentations, investigations, and architectural productions. Through a sprawling practice exploring various mediums, they work especially on project processes, questioning our ways of making and thinking at the heart of contemporary issues, social and ecological struggles.
A long, narrow staircase turns into a device that sequences the views of the sea and the Golden Isles. From the outside, the “staircase corridor” appears as a counter form to what is happening inside. The corridors are characteristic of the villa Noailles. Originally intended as service areas to avoid running into the servants, they have become public meeting spaces, bearing witness to the vibrancy of the place.
This device intensifies the paradox of a staircase where one moves around as much as one looks.
Betillon & Freyermuth
We claim: a mischievous architecture, developing sensitive and shared spaces / struggling for architecture to be a key issue of living together / making curiosity an essential virtue / being an architectural laboratory able to propose alternative models, culturally rooted in today’s reality.
Built on the rock, the villa’s surroundings are steep and abrupt. A footbridge provided direct access to the ramparts and the remains of the medieval castle of Hyères from the guest garden, passing over what is now Rue Saint-Pierre. Few archives bear witness to this link, now disappeared, that allowed one to face a side that one looks at less, but gladly walks along. A few hints prove the existence of this footbridge that still horizontally extends the villa. Today, nothing remains but the hearsay of this small bridge.
Allan Mensah lives and works in Lyon.
Allan Mensah is an architect and visual artist who graduated from the École Nationale Supérieure d’Architecture de Lyon. He defends a personal practice, navigating between architectural project and artistic creation. A territory where eclectic mediums coexist: from the magazine to the scale of the territory, from the research project to the built project. Since 2022, Allan is a LINA fellow, a European architecture platform. He currently teaches at ENSA Lyon as part of the Master 1 ALT studio “Utopia/Dystopia”.
The articulation of the volumes and projections forming the villa make the architecture come alive to the rhythm of the sun. Sunshields and cornices are features that follow a functional logic. They are designed according to the rotation of the sun. Be they T-shaped or used as a canopy to mark the threshold of an entrance, these masonry devices, covered with heather sprayed coating like the rest of the villa, are elements inherent to the overall architecture of the villa. With his sunshields, Mallet-Stevens has brought dynamism, surprise, relief and expressiveness to an architecture that may appear massive at first glance.
Studioser has merged Rina Rolli’s and Tiziano Schürch’s ideas since 2019 in projects extending from the northern to the southern side of the Alps. Based in Zurich and Lugano, they explore with their work the possibilities of an architecture designed as a matter of encounters. Be it an encounter of materials, time or people, the ambition is always about revealing and celebrating the essence and uniqueness of a place, its community and its history. Rina Rolli graduated from ETH Zurich with an MSc in architecture. In 2019, she and her partners were selected to exhibit at the XII International Architecture Biennale in São Paulo. She currently works as a teaching assistant at the chair of Jan de Vylder at ETH Zurich. She also collaborates with Noël Picco in the Piccolli collective, where they share a passion for subverting industrial products and turning them into unusual furniture. Tiziano Schürch graduated from ETH Zurich with an MSc in Architecture. In 2018, he became an assistant professor at UPC ETSAB (Barcelona) where he founded the architectural research studio extraordinary_ordinary. He designed several exhibitions, including the Catalan pavilion at the Venice Biennale. He is currently completing an MAS in spatial planning at ETH Zurich.
There would have been a chimney flue on the forecourt, or perhaps it was never
built. Either way, Mallet-Stevens designed it. A long, mast-like chimney echoes the pink living room’s table. This non-built version may have taken another, more modest form to enhance the fireplace space in the large Provençal living room. Leaving aside its domestic scale, this tall, slender volume could be likened to the model of a tower. Whatever its dimensions, this subtle superposition of simple volumes is characteristic of Robert Mallet-Stevens’ architectural language.
Defining yourself means stating your resignations, making your handicaps visible.
In a city neither big nor beautiful
neither specialised nor specialist
neither tradition nor truth
neither modern nor nostalgic
neither global nor globalised
neither local nor capitalist
neither natural nor folkloric
always in fiction
always from below
BEAR is a Bilbao-based architecture studio exploring the possibilities of architecture as a discursive practice. Led by Ane Arce and Iñigo Berasategui, BEAR resumed its activities in 2021 after having operated since 2018 under the name AZAB.
Their works were widely recognized and published in national and international specialised media (Arquine, Plot, AV). It is worth mentioning the 2019 Peña Ganchegui Award for the best young Basque architects, the 2020 Egurtek Award and various awards in Arquia Próxima and BEAU.
On the hill of the medieval castle there was a small house in the same style as the villa Noailles. A monovalent form, two rectangular blocks with flat roofs characterise this small construction. Halfway between the ramparts and the villa Noailles, it continues the architectural metabolism, the horizontal development established by Mallet-Stevens. Only a black and white photograph bears witness to its modern past. Perhaps this outhouse would have been home to the Noailles’ chauffeurs or the children’s bedrooms. Today, the building is flanked by a veranda, Provençal shutters, a double-pitched roof and canal tiles. These neo-Provençal, neo-whatever characteristics conceal this small modern building.
Concorde is an architecture and urban planning agency founded in 2016 by Simon Moisière, Jean Rodet, Adrien Zlatic (architects) and Nicolas Persyn (urban geographer). Concorde carries out projects in architecture, public space, urban planning, and territorial prospecting. Handling these different scales serves to characterise environments, situations, and spaces able to bring out a common project culture. In 2018, Concorde won the Palmarès des Jeunes Urbanistes awarded by the French Ministry of Territorial Cohesion. In 2019, Concorde was a finalist of the Toulon Design Parade organised by the villa Noailles.
MBL architectes is an architecture agency founded by Sébastien Martinez-Barat and Benjamin Lafore.
MBL architects develops a practice of prospective architecture: new and specific ways of operating for each project. They claim a project practice as an investigation and an eclectic production. Their work covers various branches of architecture: building, publishing, designing objects and curating exhibitions.
In 2014 they created Interiors. Notes et Figures, the Belgian Pavilion at the 14th Venice Architecture Biennale. In 2016, during their residency at the Villa Kujoyama in Kyoto, they started a research and construction work on folies entitled Miscellaneous Folies, which led to an exhibition at Brussels’ Kanal – Centre Pompidou in early 2019. In 2016, they won the Albums des Jeunes Architectes et Paysagistes awarded by the French Ministry of Culture. They have worked as the editors-in-chief of the architecture magazine Plan Libre since 2019. Since 2016, they have curated the villa Noailles’ architecture exhibitions, including: Landskating, Domestic Pools, La Boîte de nuit, Une chambre ailleurs and House for Superstars.
Team: Benjamin Lafore, Nicolas Boulben, Sébastien Martinez-Barat, Florian Jomain.