On Sunday, April 14th, Professor Rebecca Cavanaugh’s Redefining Modernity class spent the day in Lille, France, exploring Robert Mallet-Stevens’ architecture. The Villa Cavrois was built between 1929 and 1932 for Paul Cavrois, an industrialist from Roubaix active in the textile industry. The Villa was occupied, ultimately looted and left in a destroyed manner after the war. The Villa Cavrois became a historic monument in 1990 and was purchased by the state in 2001. By 2003 however, restorations were beginning, from restoring the surrounding park the villa is situated on, to each and every floor tile in the building.
Upon arriving to the Villa Cavrois, our students got to roam the property, experiencing the beauty of Mallet-Stevens’ modern architecture. The building, meant to house a family of seven, was vast and awe-inspiring. To begin, the group entered the Villa into the living room, where the space was restored in its entirety. While there were bannisters and bars blocking visitors from touching or sitting on pieces within the building, there were still several areas which were left un-blocked, allowing for a more natural view of the space in its original form. The main floor was comprised of living rooms, studies, children dining rooms, adult dinning rooms, and a service side, equip with a large kitchen and bathrooms.
The students noticed works by other artists and craftsman during their ascend to the second floor, where they past an original Jean Prouve elevator door. The second floor held the children’s bedrooms and bathrooms. The third floor of the Villa consisted of more bedrooms, but the most eye catching to our students within the entire building, was the master bedroom and bathroom. The master bathroom was crafted fully of marble, and had two marble and class vanities, a marble island, a built in scale, and a marble bathtub and shower. Attached to the master bath, was the bedroom, with a large queen sized bed and silk sheets. It was clear at this point, Mallet-Stevens’ take on a “total work of art” aesthetic was revolutionary in the progress of modern design and architecture. Students continued towards the rooftop terrace, passing the children’s playroom and a secondary study on the top floor, just outside of the terrace door.
Students even explored the basement of the Villa, which held glass cages of things created by Cavrois and Mallet-Stevens’, Also in the basement, situated in the garage, was a video explaining the process and showing footage of the Villa’s restoration. Students were in awe listening to the video discuss the process taken to restore the tiles in the living room, which were stripped from the floor one at a time, broken into smaller pieces, and individually carved out, cleaned and re-installed onto the floor.
What was truly inspirational, was a room left on the second floor of the Villa. This one single room was left in its natural,
found state, prior to the restoration process. It was truly shocking to see the progress of the building from almost ruins to beautifully painted and ornamented rooms.
To conclude the visit, the students circled the Villa, observing the clean burnt yellow bricks, the hidden staircases, pools and fountains. Our HDCS students left the Villa feeling super inspired to finish the semester strong.