Le Corbusier’s Cabanon 05.03.09

words Justin McGuirk

There's something appealingly modest about Le Corbusier's holiday home, which goes on show today in a faithful reconstruction at the Royal Institute of British Architects. This giant of 20th-century architecture built himself a tiny little bolthole in Cap-Martin on the Cote D'Azure. It's part log cabin and part hotel room, with the feel of a particularly well-designed monk's cell. In other words, it's quite an achievement.

Apparently, Corb sketched it out in 45 minutes in 1952. If that's true - and let's face it, who knows? - it's a testament to his effortless talent, because the Cabanon feels like a Rubik's Cube of clever, space-saving organisation. It's also the only space Corb ever built for himself, and as such there's a voyeuristic intimacy to standing in that room and sliding open the door of his wardrobe. Certainly, everything is designed around the proportions of a single body, presumably the body of his alter ego and measurement system, the Modulor man. But you can't help but picture the Swiss architect's own body here.

There's no unnecessary design in the Cabanon, and no pandering to a client's ego - Corb knew what he wanted. I was surprised that the windows weren't more expansive, since the Cabanon looked straight out to the Mediterranean through a canopy of pine trees, but that only adds to the sense of restraint and self-containment. This is not a place for looking outwards but for looking inwards. One nice touch is that the front door opened straight onto a private entrance to Corb's favourite café next door, which is bedecked with his own paintings.

Le Corbusier's Cabanon, The Interior 1:1 is on show at the RIBA until 28 March.

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