Le Corbusier’s Villa Savoye Gets a Kitsch McMansion Makeover

Matt Shaw Matt Shaw

Often, the runners-up in a competition are more interesting than the winners. Juries are beholden to politics, public relations, the history of their own program, and the conservatism of mainstream tastes. This is certainly the case in the Maxwell Render for SketchUp competition “Out of Place”.

The open competition solicited renderers to submit their most outrageous decontextualized 3D models, generated with SketchUp and Maxwell Render. The winners are thoughtful and expertly executed. Their technical prowess excels, and it is clear why the company chose them for the first and second place prizes.

1st place winner (selected by Next Limit experts): Elisa Solbiati. All images courtesy Maxwell Render.

2nd place winner (selected by Ranch Computing experts): Victor Hernandez

But these entries fall a bit short in their decontextualization. Fallingwater in Arizona … isn’t that Taliesin West? And while Milan’s Duomo Cathedral miniaturized under glass is an interesting thought, isn’t it commonly found in most of Milan’s souvenir shops?

Popular Vote winner Mirče Mladenov effortlessly blows the two jury honorees out of the water. In fact, there are five imaginative projects among the runners-up that are vastly more exciting, inspiring and provocative.

For Mladenov, the level of absurdity and satire achieved in his project highlights all of the things that Villa Savoye stands against. As others have noted, Corbusier (and Mies, etc.) often have their purist Modernism defiled by residents upon moving in. This image, of a yellow, ridiculous new version of the iconic villa, populates the rendering with all the tropes that can be, but usually aren’t, added in the 3D environment. This turns the idea of clean Modernism, as well as vanguard, “good” renderings, on their head. Air conditioning units, lawn gnomes, and a satellite dish tell the true story of domestic personalization and the messiness of everyday life, recontextualizing the sacred, protected purity of the original.

Marcos Ortiz’s project took Stonehenge and plopped it in a soccer stadium. The shift from verdant nature to artificial turf and man-made surroundings reframes the massive stone monument as something that can be shrunk, commodified, and put on display. Rather than a typical souvenir miniaturization, it is turned into a sporting spectacle, even in its immovable state. Rather than existing as the site that contains the ritual, it becomes the object of some unspecified, most likely nonsensical, ritual itself.

Christian Kittelson took Bohlin Cywinski Jackson’s Fifth Avenue Apple Store away from New York City and placed it in a high-ball martini. It’s a bizarre take on decontexualization from an architectural point of view, but one that makes a formal critique of the ice-like glass cube. The Apple store floats, tipping on the edge of submersion while simultaneously melting. Meanwhile, the Apple logo, doubled and reflected on all sides of the cube, still finds an inner energy that allows it to burn brightly despite its physical melting. The brand’s image shines on even in the face of the ultimate environmental disaster.

Abed Sabeh cleverly made a Kovacsian mess by collaging some found models of famous buildings, including the Leaning Tower of Pisa and Sydney Opera House, into a little city. The entire collection is oriented toward the camera and turned into ice, leaving only monolithic forms devoid of cultural, political, or material context. The hollow shapes are reoriented only in relationship to one another and the camera. This is the most tautoligical of the renderings, as it questions the entire system of truthfulness in renderings by simply changing the materials with a few clicks. The leveling of all characteristics outside of figural qualities also illustrates that inside the frame of the contemporary rendering, there is only what we see, and context can simply be turned off like a layer.

For Kārlis Musts, decontextualization means moving a neoclassical house onto the top of a skyscraper. Of our favorites, this is the most plausible, and possibly realistic. It is simply a penthouse dressed up as a normal suburban home. For Musts, the domestic landscape becomes an eerie reminder of our own loneliness, perched on top of a symbol of wealth, the skyscraper. Three birds also violently fly past the camera, shown in contrast to a sublime environment devoid of landscape. It is unclear whether this scene is from the future, or the present, but the haunting image of the ultimate symbol of the American Dream sitting lifelessly on top of commercial architecture, away from public space, is a reminder of the alienation we might feel if this scenario were to be played out.

© Luciano Kruk Arquitectos

House in the Trees // Luciano Kruk Arquitectos

Buenos Aires, Argentina

© JENSEN Architects

Next World Offices // JENSEN Architects

San Francisco, CA, United States