This house was built for Louis Carre, the well-known art dealer, and is surrounded by large landscaped gardens. The task was to create a residence which could serve for family living as well as a gallery for paintings and sculpture, while, at the same time, avoiding the character of an exhibition space. The point of departure for the architectural conception was the site itself: an oak grove on a hill dominating the surrounding landscape. The architect was not only responsible for the construction of the house itself, but upon the express desire of the client, he also was called upon to design all the details such as furnishings, lamps, fabrics, hardware and all the other equipment going into this house.
The garden surrounding the house was also created from the architect's detailed design. ln order to provide a portion of the wall surfaces with both window and skylight illumination, it was necessary to vary the room heights. The base and portions of the exterior walls of grey Iimestone from Chartres and the roof of blue slate from Normandy form the exterior colour accents. On the interior, smooth wall surfaces are combined with ribbed wood panels on walls and ceilings. The floor plan is so arranged that every interior room receives a corresponding exterior space (patio or special garden corner). The bathrooms are connected with a Finnish sauna and have direct access to the outside where one can move freely and protected from view by means of the terrace-like steps. The villa stands on the highest point of the hill and the curving, winding access road affords aver-ehanging views of the landscape-of the garden and dominating oak grove.
The great Finnish architect Alvar Aalto (Alvar Aalto) and the French art dealer Louis Carré (Louis Carré) created a house in which everything is thought out to the smallest detail, every detail is relevant and nothing is excessive. Carré was the son of a successful antique dealer, from whom he inherited a gallery in Paris with a branch in New York.
Unlike his father, the son preferred the old masters of his contemporaries: he sold the works of Paul Klee, Juan Gris, Picasso (Pablo Picasso) and Le Corbusier (Le Corbusier) and was familiar with them all. However, when it came to building his own house on a four-hectare plot located on a gentle hillside in a village south-west of Paris, Carré decided that Le Corbusier’s concrete creation would look like a false tooth against the background of an idyllic rural landscape. Carré and Aalto had many common friends, and they personally met in 1956 at the Venice Biennale of Contemporary Art and immediately became friends.
The art dealer asked the architect to build a house of natural materials for him that seemed small on the outside and large on the inside. “I needed a house of living materials,” said Carré. - Probably, it was a subconscious reaction to the then fashion on the architecture of glass and steel. And I wanted a stone, a brick - because a brick nobly grows old - and wood. That is why Aalto was perfect for me. He felt the material very well. I think this is due to his poetic talent - he is a poet. ”
In the house built by Aalto, the benefits of these materials are fully utilized. The building stands at the highest point of the site, the windows of the main living areas face the garden and the surrounding fields (now, it is true, they are obscured by the trees that have stretched pretty much over half a century). The building itself is built of white limestone of Chartres. The outlines of a single-pitch roof covered with dark blue slate echo the terrain of the site. The most impressive room in the house is a high central hall with a wave-bending ceiling (you can see a similar one today in the renovated Aalto library in Vyborg).
This element has become a kind of business card of the architect, whose very name in Finnish means “wave”. The ceiling is trimmed with red Finnish pine, and the light pouring through the windows above the main entrance favourably emphasizes the rich texture of the wood. This arrangement of windows also helped to protect the paintings hanging on the walls of the hall from direct sunlight.
“This vault is a true masterpiece,” said Carré. - By designing it, Aalto surpassed himself. This is the only architect who also has a great carpenter skills. The ceiling of the hall is something like a dome. From the earliest days of architecture, the dome has always been the pinnacle of the work of the architect. But this vault is not a copy of something else. This is the heart of the house, the most important thing in it. ”
The hall serves as a kind of central area of the house, all the ways converge here. A wide short staircase leads down to the spacious living room, which overlooks the surroundings. Another route leads to the dining room and office space. The door leading to the private part of the house hardly stands out among the doors of the built-in wardrobes. The bedrooms of Louis Carre himself and his wife Olga were located on the first floor. Upstairs were servants' rooms. Both outside and inside the house strikes with amazing integrity. Every detail is chosen carefully and with love. Carre specially travelled to Finland to select the furniture he needed from the Artek range of products owned by Aalto.
The architect developed the design of many objects especially for this house - from copper door handles to unusual combined lamps in the dining room: they illuminated both the dining table and art objects on the walls. Not satisfied with the already existing assortment of his brand, the architect came up with a variety of items for Karr: chairs, writing and dining tables, some of which were later put into mass production. Louis Carré lived in this house until his death in 1977. Now the building is open to the public - the only building of Alvar Aalto in France, which has become one of the most advanced buildings of the master, never ceases to amaze visitors from all over the world with its warmth and thoughtfulness.