Ove Bang – Seeing Le Corbusier’s Works Through His Sketches

Ove Bangs sketches are fascinating. They tell the story of an architect influenced by the modernist movement in Europe, who used it to develop his own architectural language and translated it into his buildings.

If I haven’t been modern and radical in the past,
I certainly will be now.1

This quote from Ove Bang relates to his experience after seeing Haus Tugendhat by Mies van de Rohe. On his trip through Europe in 1928, he experienced modern houses in their real environment for the first time. He was fortunate enough to find two passionate avant-garde clients, where he could experiment and develop his own skills, then translate the modernist architecture he experienced into the Norwegian architecture world of the 1930s’.2

(2) Ove Bang, pre-study for Villa Stousland II.

While visiting the Norwegian Museum of Architecture in the fall of 2018, I discovered an interesting sketch (2) from Ove Bang and additionally, a model exhibited from the realised house (3). They seemed different and not related to each other: the sketch, radical and modern, while the model more reserved and diluted.

(3) Model Villa Stousland II.

The archive materials from Villa Stousland II. show that the given task from Dr. Stousland, the client, must have opened a completely new world of possibilities for Bang. Particularly when you see the simple black and white concept sketches (4) that depict how Le Corbusier´s works inspired Ove Bang´s thoughts. The difference between the first sketch and the realised work, show us the daily business of an architect. Even though the pharmacist, Dr. Stousland was a client who appreciated the avant-garde, he still had his own wishes. When you compare the model with the first coloured sketch, you can see how hard Ove Bang tried to realise his initial architectural ideas. He attempted to achieve the feeling from the sketch, where the house as single solid cube almost seems to fly over the site. In the model the darker wood from the first floor is flying above the bright white basement.

(4) Ove Bang, pre-sketch Villa Stousland II.

At Villa Stousland II the window plays an important role in the elevation and is a great example of how Ove Bang took visual impressions from modernist architecture and translated and implemented it into his own architecture. Ouds Cafe Unie (5) has a window division that reminds us of Stousland II. Bang must have seen this avant-garde cafe on his trip to Holland, as the panorama window has a symmetry that was unusual for the time and for Ove Bang himself. Meanwhile, he was so contempt about the window plan that he repeated it to Villa Simonsen -Ditlev(6).3

(5) Elevation Café de Unie, Jacobus Oud, Rotterdam, 1925

 

(6) Comparison of Windows Café Unie – Villa Stousland II. – Villa Simonsen-Ditlev

The Villa Simonsen-Ditlev (8) and Villa Stousland II. can be seen as milestones of Ove Bang’s work, due to the open-minded avant-garde clients he had the opportunity to try out his experience and knowledge of international modernism. At first glance, Villa Simonsen-Ditlev looked like a smaller copy from Le Corbusier’s Villa Savoye (7) , but after investigation, you can see Bang´s Norwegian adaptations. Villa Savoye is the masterpiece of the modernist Le Corbusier and it seems hard to compare anything with it. The site is completely flat and the cube form seems uplifted from the bottom through thin light columns.
It is clear Bang’s main inspiration was Villa Savoye. He takes stylistic elements from Corbusier and places them in the Norwegian context. The first difference is the site, where Villa Savoye stands on a completely flat site and is surrounded by an artificial garden, in contrast, Villa Simonsen-Ditlev’s site has a big slope. Instead of transforming the nature, the house adapts the landscape.

(7) Villa Savoye, Le Corbusier

(8) Villa Simonsen-Ditlev, Ove Bang

The second difference is the use of materials. Le Corbusier Villa is a clean white cube and seems like perfection in itself. In comparison, Ove Bang used natural stone for the basement, as a result of the nordic weather conditions. The columns on the front facade at Villa Simonsen-Ditlev don’t have any supporting function. It’s a purely decorative element on the facade.
When you remember the first quote from Ove Bang seeing Mies van de Rohe’s Villa Tugendhat, one can see certain elements in Villa Simonsen-Ditlev. Comparing Villa Tugendhat and Villa Savoye. It’s surprising, how Ove Bang translated his visual experience from both houses into Villa Simonsen-Ditlev. (9)

(9) Comparison Elevation Villa Savoye – Villa Tugendhat – Villa Simonsen-Ditlev

 

This is good as Le Corbusier, because here you can live.4

Sigfried Gideon said this about Villa Simonsen-Ditlev when he was visiting Norway 1950. He makes the point that Ove Bang humanises modernism. He breaks it down to the human scale. This is conveyed through the first black and white sketch where people are sitting together protected by the walls of the modern house.

Ove Bang stylistic architectural development is remarkable. Only through his own self-education and his passion for architecture, was he able to create such an impressive oeuvre in his limited time as an architect. Unfortunately, he died in 1942, at the age of forty-seven.5

We will never know in which direction his work would have developed. Imagine, if he could have had the resources to realise his first sketch for Villa Stousland II. He shows in his work that it is possible to humanise modernism by using regional materials, think about the human scale and work sensitively with the given site.

 

 

Sources:
1 Archive Nasjonalmuseet -Arkitektur, Ove Bang, Villa Stousland ll.
2,3,4,5 Wenche Findal; Mellom tradisjon og modernitet: Arkitekt Ove Bang go den funktionelle Syntese, Doktoravhandling i kunsthistorie Universitetet, Oslo, 1995.
Pictures:

1 Archive Nasjonalmuseet -Arkitektur, Ove Bang, Villa Stousland ll.
2 Archive Nasjonalmuseet -Arkitektur, Ove Bang, Villa Stousland ll.
3 Archive Nasjonalmuseet -Arkitektur, Ove Bang, Villa Stousland ll.
4 Archive Nasjonalmuseet -Arkitektur, Ove Bang, Villa Stousland ll.
5 https://www.architecturelab.net/jjp-oud-cafe-de-unie-in-rotterdam-1925/
6 author
7 http://www.fondationlecorbusier.fr/corbucache/410x480_2049_2898.jpg?r=0
8 Archive Nasjonalmuseet -Arkitektur, Ove Bang, Villa Stousland ll.
9 author