one of the rare houses he constructed, now listed
An hour by road to the south-east from the town of Nancy. Colmar and Strasbourg, the more prestigious towns of Alsace, are respectively 1 hour and 1⅓ hours away. Accessing the Rhine Valley motorways, leading south, north and eastwards, takes roughly the same amount of time.
The snowfields of the Vosges mountains are about 1½ hours away.
Direct daily train services provide 2½-hour links to Paris and Bâle-Mulhouse international airport is only a 1½-hour drive away.
This property is in a town with all administrative, commercial and educational facilities, with a wealth of good state and private schools at every level.
Every year the International Geography Festival (31st edition in 2020) unites prestigious participants, renowned throughout the world.
North of the cathedral, in the direction of the neighbouring, forest-covered mountains, villas and pavilions are laid out in tiers, rising up a slope, facing south-east, south and south-west.
It was at the highest point of this site, right on the edge of the forest, that Jean-Prouvé constructed the “Maison du Docteur Gauthier” (Dr Gauthier’s house), for his daughter and son-in-law in 1961-62. A villa which, apart from his own house in Nancy, is one of the most personal of his architectural works, well-known throughout the world.
This villa, with its very refined, very plain lines, constitutes the perfect summary of Jean-Prouvé’s ideas as regards construction techniques: solid foundations, a central concrete block, with U-shaped crossbeams laid out longwise, acting as the main framework, exterior walls made of striated aluminium and, on the south side, a large picture window to let copious amounts of light into the most beautiful living rooms.
This villa stands on a large plot of sloping land, spanning a surface area of approx. 5,000 m². It backs on to the hillside on the heights of the plot and, therefore, dominates the garden, the central section of which is very open, being dotted but with a few magnolia trees and creeping shrubs, and is embellished with a few tall fir trees at the entrance.
This villa spans two levels, with a semi-underground lower section, built on solid foundations, which houses not only all the living rooms converted at a later date to the construction era, but also all the utility rooms and areas, and a garden level, still with its original appearance, completely given over to living rooms as designed and created by Jean-Prouvé. Given the fact that this villa backs on to the hillside, only the garden level is visible from the lower end of the garden in front of the house. The solid facade of the lower level can only be seen from the driveway providing entrance to the property. The wide overhang of the flat roof on the south facade is enough to transform and enrich the structure’s very simple geometry: it also acts as a sun-shield for the large picture window in the lounge and covers the terrace which provides direct access from the lounge to the garden above the garage, constructed on the lower level.
The striated aluminium walls on all four sides of the buildings give this villa the splendour of a piece of silverware in its verdant setting.
This is the heart of Jean-Prouvé’s work. With commitment to a layout that is both very simple and very stringent, the working drawings and the architectural plans appear to have merged into one. A central concrete block, reinforced by two crossbeams laid out longwise, supports the entire structure, with the living rooms on either side. Facing the entrance driveway, a large lounge-dining room is illuminated via a large picture window, equally as wide as the room, giving it a panoramic view. This spacious room (approx. 70 m²), with its terracotta floor tiles and its strip pattern parquet ceiling, immediately brings to mind the idea of a welcoming, comfortable place to live, a feeling that is strengthened by a cast iron fireplace, resembling that already designed by Jean-Prouvé for his own house in Nancy. The other end of the villa, connected via two corridors passing either side of the central block, is taken up by a main bedroom, a child’s bedroom and a long study-bedroom. The interior partition walls and the storage areas set in the thickness of the walls are here made of wood, reflecting the same hue as the strip pattern parquet ceiling and blending beautifully with the terracotta floor tiles. The doors to the bedrooms resemble those of a boat, with a door sill and curved corners, enhancing, once again, the singularity of the building. The central block, surrounded therefore by all the living rooms, houses a kitchen, made very bright by a picture window looking out over the corridor on the south side, a bathroom, a shower room and two toilets.
A few transformation works have been carried out on this level in relation to the original layout and the floor currently comprises two bedrooms, with a shower room and a toilet, as well as a workshop that could become a third bedroom. It also includes a cellar, a boiler room with its oil tank and storage areas.
The garden follows the slope up to the edge of the forest which is but an invitation for residents to go for walks through its vast tracts. A few trees, at the entrance to the garden and behind the villa, establish a link with the wooded surroundings. Most of the garden, in the centre and below the villa, is covered with a rustic lawn, dotted with a few low shrubs. The landscaping preserves and embellishes the outstanding vista.
Great architects have their own distinctive touch but do not reproduce their own work. Jean-Prouvé, originally an engineer, was a man of metal who, in this instance, introduced the warmth of wooden ceilings and internal partitions. This inventor of rapid, functional constructions took the time to make the most of light. His steel stiffeners made glass walls possible. But the era of large cruise ships still prevails, with the Vosges mountains, like the sea, clearly outlined through porthole-shaped openings. The architectural choice of looking out over the natural surroundings and the horizon is enhanced by the simplicity of its layout and its lines. Our current era shuns excess, waste, programmed obsolescence and imitation. Jean-Prouvé must have had a premonition. His pencil designed a kind of perfection, one that is ever-lasting.
|Land registry surface area||4960 m2|
|Main building surface area||360 m2|
|Number of bedrooms||6|
Gilles Larosée +33 1 42 84 80 85
NB: The above information is not only the result of our visit to the property; it is also based on information provided by the current owner. It is by no means comprehensive or strictly accurate especially where surface areas and construction dates are concerned. We cannot, therefore, be held liable for any misrepresentation.