The Villa “Le Lac” tree planted by Le Corbusier continues to live in a collection of wooden objects by Jaime Hayon for the 50th anniversary of the LC Collection

‘Villa Le Lac Paulownia’: a celebratory project from Le Corbusier’s roots
Villa “Le Lac”, located on the shores of lake Geneva in Switzerland, is the first example of modern architecture designed by Le Corbusier and his cousin Pierre Jeanneret. This concrete house was completed in 1924 and became the home for Le Corbusier’s parents.
When the ECAL/University of art and design Lausanne informed Cassina that the historical Paulownia tree planted in 1924 on the garden terrace of Villa “Le Lac” was to be removed due to an incurable illness, the brand immediately got involved and in 2013 assisted with the tree’s felling and subsequent transfer to its carpentry workshop in Meda.
Nature as architecture
Le Corbusier‘s choice to plant the Paulownia tree was not by chance as Patrick Moser, the Villa’s curator and initiator of the project recollects.
“This particular tree, considered by many architects as the ‘sacred tree’ of the villa, was chosen by the architect himself as its long branches were to create a roof to the ‘green room’, salle de verdure, which he cleverly constructed next to the water thanks to a wall with a small window which perfectly framed the breathtaking view.”
‘In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous’ (Aristotle)
Despite numerous efforts made to plant a descendent from the same Paulownia tree, the fifty cuttings taken from the branches did not survive due to the wet spring of 2013, and the seeds taken from its fruit and planted on several latitudes in Corseaux (Switzerland), Paris, Boulogne-sur-Mer (north of France), Roquebrune Cap Martin (south of France) and Bruxelles (Belgium) did not grow.
In November 2013 a new Paulownia tree was planted to continue the legacy of Le Corbusier and his architecture.
However in spring 2014, nature took its course and a little branch was discovered to be growing out of the terrace’s wall on the lakeside of the villa, most probably thanks to a seed, Le Corbusier’s spirit, which had been blown by the wind. This Paulownia offspring has now been replanted at the Bourse aux Arbres in the suburbs of Lausanne where it is now more than 50cm high.
Symbolic limited edition accessories in the Paulownia tree’s wood by Jaime Hayon
To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the LC Collection (Le Corbusier, Pierre Jeanneret, Charlotte Perriand) and commemorate the 50 years since Le Corbusier passed away, Cassina, with the support of the Fondation Le Corbusier, asked the artist and designer Jaime Hayon to honour this great architect by creating a set of accessories in the wood from this same unique Paulownia tree.
Today Le Corbusier’s memory continues to live in three decorative objects which will be produced using all healthy parts of the tree, right to the very last piece of wood. These ‘Villa Le Lac Paulownia’ objects have a strong poetic reference to what no longer exists now that the tree has been cut down as well as a specific functional use:
1. The Bird, this sculpture acts as a letter holder thanks to a small slit in its beak and down the curve of its back (6x24xh.15cm);
2. The Bird House, holds small objects such as a mobile phone, coins, etc. both inside the structure and on a small raised circular pedestal, it also has a wooden key hook attached to the outer side (19x28x23cm);
3. The Ledge, this swing shaped shelf is fastened to the wall with natural saddle leather strings (50x26xh.170cm).
Paulownia wood is known for its lightness and versatility, but also for its lack of rigidity and difficulty to work with, making the project an even greater challenge.
The objects have been intentionally left natural, preserved with just a light oil treatment, to enhance the warmth of this original piece of Le Corbusier history.
The limited editions will be numbered and authenticated with the Cassina logo, the project’s title ‘Villa Le Lac Paulownia’ and Jaime Hayon’s signature. Each piece, accompanied by its own identity card, will be presented in customised packaging to highlight the inimitable quality of the project.
''I was honored to be given the task to create new objects from the Villa “Le Lac” tree to, in turn, honour the great Le Corbusier. I thought about who would most miss the beautiful Paulownia standing on the banks of Lake Geneva. I thought about birds singing amidst the sound of leaves in the wind, a little home for those birds, and kids laughing joyously while swinging from the branches. I let this spirit guide me in creating the three objects which speak the poetic nature of the tree, evoking new life.” Jaime Hayon.
Réaction Poétique Collection: wooden objects for the Cassina catalogue
Jaime Hayon has also designed further objects as part of Cassina’s permanent collection: the Réaction Poétique Collection includes four table centrepieces, a tray made up of two coffee bean shapes and two small side tables. This collection has also been inspired by the organic shapes of Le Corbusier’s architectures and esprit nouveau artwork, and true to Cassina’s history and workmanship know-how, has been produced in solid ash-wood stained black with a low-gloss finish.
These items, branded with the Cassina logo and presented in a special packaging, will carry an identity card which acts as guarantee of the authenticity of each single piece.
“I wanted to create useful objects for the modern home such as trays and side tables, but with sculptural elements interplaying forms, light and shadow. It was a very strict, almost religious challenge to use only one material and one finish, exercising my design philosophy. I feel this restriction actually became an opportunity to showcase the beauty of the wood, along with the expert mastery of Cassina’s carpentry workshop.” Jaime Hayon.
Wood-workmanship patrimony
Cassina has a well-established heritage in working with wood, in fact right from its foundation in 1927 the company specialised in cabinet-making. Today, the brand’s carpentry workshop has strong experience in working with all types of wood and is particularly renowned for the excellence in quality of its materials and the meticulous production methods which unite skilled handcraftsmanship and industrial innovation.
Wood was also an important material for Le Corbusier in the later part of his artistic maturity: after experimenting for many years with tubular metal, he rediscovered nature and turned his work towards elementary and archetypical items.
In 2010 Cassina presented this collection to the public for the very first time.
LC Collection: authenticity first and foremost
Cassina is the only authorised company to produce the furniture by Le Corbusier, Pierre Jeanneret, Charlotte Perriand, working in close collaboration with the Le Corbusier Foundation and the heirs of the co-authors.
Right from the very beginning, the models were branded with a progressive production number, an innovative instrument to recognise the works’ artistic value and to ensure control of original production.
Cassina believes that it is fundamental to fight the copycat market and protect the culture of design in order to sustain innovation and quality.