Tuesday, April 6, 2010

American-Style Garden Cities in France

Georges Benoît-Lévy (1880-1971), the Director of the Association des Cités-Jardins de France, greatly admired the model homes advertised by the Southern Pine Association. He obtained photographs and plans from the New Orleans-based business, publishing the compilation as Maisons de Campagne sans étage et bungalows (Paris: Massin, c. 1920). The simple structures -- surrounded by nature and constructed for "mid-day" -- featured sleeping porches, entry porches, and eating porches. Some of the plans included breakfast alcoves, small built-in compartments for having one's breakfast. Benoît-Lévy advocated for French architects to understand and appreciate these plans, and adapt them for regional use.

With his gaze on the United States, the French planner not only solicited such architectural documentation, but he also championed the garden city cause in American periodicals:

"Let the home stand by itself, have its own individuality, its own voices, songs, silences and life. Every family its house; every house its garden, every garden its flowers."[Architectural Record (1920): p. 188]

Benoît-Lévy was also an early supporter of Swiss architect Charles-Édouard Jeanneret-Gris, later more widely known as Le Corbusier (1887-1965):

"Monsieur Jeanneret is one of the few architects who has succeeded under the anomalous conditions caused by the war in organising a Garden Village, which, although on a small scale, will none the less be built according to the most up-to-date ideas." [The Town Planning Review (April 1918): p. 251]

Image above: R.B. Williamson, architect. Habitation for a Hot Climate, with a "Plein Air" Sleeping Porch. Plate 16, Georges Benoît-Lévy Maisons de Campagne sans étage et bungalows. Paris: Massin, c. 1920. Available in the Garden Library of the New Orleans Town Gardeners, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

No comments: