Villa Jeanneret-Perret the medium-sized family house known locally as the ‘Maison Blanche’ was built on the Poutillerel hillside for Jeanneret’s parents the year after he returned from his Voyage to the Orient. The house projects out from the hillside so that the main floor has an adjacent terrace to which access is gained by a staircase from a lower level.
As in the earlier houses, the basement contains a cellar, and the lower level is set into the hillside. Again as in the earlier houses, entry and circulation are placed at the rear so that the main rooms enjoy an uninterrupted view to the south. A sketch by Jeanneret (more commonly known as Le Corbusier) dating from this period bears such a close similarity to the villa that it may have been an early design proposal. Drawn boldly and economically, it contains the essentials of the final composition of the villa and is shown on a tree-lined hillside similar to the actual site.
Externally, the white cubic form relies on contrasts within the modelling, with the projecting bay defining the east-west linear axis. In the surface subdivision, decoration based on pattern and texture is abandoned in favour of a studied deployment of elements in accordance with classical design principles.
Houses by Behrens, Floffrnann and Tessenow have been suggested as influences on the design but there is also a resemblance in general handling to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Winslow House, which has a similar overhanging roof with windows in a band below it. Wright’s work was known in Europe as a result of the Wasmuth publication of 1910.
Internally, the central salon is linked to adjacent rooms through glazed doors to form one grand space, the first example of this in Jeanneret’s work. On the first floor, the staircase leads to an ample linen room lit by a pair of glazed double doors which give access to a small curved balcony with a simple wrought-iron balustrade. A corridor on the central axis of the plan leads to a bedroom facing the terrace, with the master bedroom centrally placed on the south side.
To the north of the central corridor, Jeanneret designed himself a study with a west-facing window and a rooflight giving illumination to the centre of the room. In the roof space, behind the frosted glass which admits light, he placed electric light bulbs to give indirect lighting.
A further innovation was the provision of central heating radiators in wooden casings under the large windows of the main salon. Jeanneret was also responsible for the fireplace in the main salon which he designed as his own version of a classical base, column and ‘entablature’ topped with ceramic tiles (also of his own design) which open in a composition celebrating nature with leaves, flowers and birds.
According to Roland Bhend and Pierre-Alaine Luginbuhl, the Villa Jeanneret-Perret excited a good deal of unfavourable comment from the local inhabitants when first built. It was felt that the large windows of the main salon were impractical in such a cold winter climate and that a pergola was more appropriate to the Balkans than to an altitude of 1,000 metres in the Swiss Jura.
Apparently, the pergola particularly incensed the local poet Jules Baillod. Jeanneret and his parents only lived in the house from 1913 to 1915, during which period his mother gave music lessons in the drawing room. Something of Jeanneret’s father’s pride in his son’s achievement may be understood from a remark attributed to him while standing at the drawing room window looking south; that ‘it was as though he had a cathedral behind him’.
Charles-Edouard Jeanneret-Gris before adopting the pseudonym Le Corbusier made some other buildings which include Villa Stotzer in La Chaux-de-Fonds and Villa Fallet in Vienna. His work greatly influenced the modern architecture.