Le Cabanon is a miracle.

Designed in 45 minutes, 160 square feet small, and the last place Le Corbusier inhabited minutes before his death, Le Cabanon is the most charming contradiction ever produced. LC designed this, he said, for his wife but barely large enough for one enormous ego, Le Cabanon is like a guilty pleasure that Norman Foster might have for Beidermeier or Beany Babies.

“On December 30th 1951 I sketched as a birthday present for my wife, the plans for a cabin on a corner of a table in a small snack-bar on the Cote d’Azur, which I built the next year on a rocky point surrounded by the sea…. These drawings I made within 45 minutes.” L.C.

Le Corbusier had this in mind when he coined "a house is a machine for living". Sublimely cool in his public work, Le Corbusier created some of the most finely crafted spatial manipulations in the modern world. Hailing the machine, the airplane, grain silos, platonic form and buildings poured from a single material, his weekend house is handmade and rustic but behaving like the Swiss watch-like buildings he is famous for.

“I adore this nook. And I always wanted to build a little house. The idea came to me during a 15 day cruise I took. My cabin measured 3m x 3m with a dresser and a bathroom. 15m/2 in all. Not a square centimeter was wasted. A little cell in the realm of human existence where every eventuality had been foreseen. My ‘cabana’ in Cap-Martin is a little smaller than my luxury Cabin on board [the ocean liner] was. What especially scandalizes my visitors is that the toilet fixture is in the middle of the room. It’s really one of the most good looking objects that our industry has manufactured…..’ L.C.

Le Cabanon is a barnacle attached to a tavern that provided him with all the sustenance he needed, and allowed him to eschew the kitchen and dining parts of his home. He created a small studio building where he could sketch while gazing at the sea. In his tiny getaway he drew Chandigarh, an entire city.

The cabin sits above Eileen Grey's E-1027 house which he adorned with paintings as he did his own taverna's walls. Eileen Grey had a slightly less accommodating reaction to his painted gifts, but the several architectural works (there is also a 'unite de camping') in such a small area creates a kind of Wiesenhof of the Riviera.

Contradictions are so entwined in the mythology of architecture as to be a prerequisite. Honesty in materials didn't exactly extend to Kahn's family life. Mies lived in a decidedly un-Mies house to gaze upon his own buildings. Gropius hawked modernism to the Nazi regime. Johnson slept as often in the brick house as in the glass house. We love imperfection, and Le Cabanon is so imperfect as to be perfection itself.

reposted to celebrate LC's birthday in October 2014