Until a pharmaceutical cure for tuberculosis was developed in the 1950s, architectural design was employed to foster patients’ well-being.
While spaces for healing were often designed to complement medical treatment, by the 1920s, architects like Neutra and, in particular, Le Corbusier increasingly conceptualized the home as “a machine for living in” that could impact the well-being of their inhabitants through their carefully planned design. Advances in building technology—like the steel skeleton of the Lovell Health House—and industrial mass-production of materials freed architects from the structural constraints that for centuries had determined a building’s form. This new freedom allowed them to address the building’s function above all. Le Corbusier’s Villa Savoye, completed in 1931, reflects the architect’s five-point theory of architecture, which served as a blueprint for modern homes. Its free-form interior walls, façade, and narrow, ribbon windows were all enabled by pilotis—load-bearing columns that elevated the building above the ground. And like the backyard and orchards of the Lovell Health House, Villa Savoye’s roof garden provided a necessary retreat from the hustle and bustle of modern living.
Today, when we describe a building as having “clean lines,” it’s hard to imagine that this phrase has its origins in the tuberculosis epidemic. Though modern architects eschewed style and ornament in the name of rationality, the minimal non-style they created became one of the most iconic architectural styles of all: International Style