Tucked away in the residential heart of the 16th arrondissement is the rue Mallet Stevens, named after the architect who designed all the 5 villas on it. Robert Mallet Stevens is widely regarded as one of the most influential French architects of the inter-war period, alongside Le Corbusier. As well as buildings, he also designed over 20 film sets, including one for Marcel l’Herbier’s silent film l’Inhumaine in 1924 – which is considered a masterpiece – and his building designs inspired Man Ray to make the film ‘The Mysteries of the Chateau de Dé’.
The rue Mallet Stevens was designed and built in the 1920’s. His style was resolutely modern, rational and without excess ornamentation. Some of the original buildings have had additional storeys added in the 1960’s, which has somewhat compromised their proportions, but the street still presents a harmonious view of his work and aesthetic. Number 10, studios built for the brothers Joel and Jan Martel, is the only one that still has it’s original proportions. Look out for their names above the letterbox, a beautiful detail that could easily go unnoticed. Doors and ironwork were designed by Jean Prouvé, the stained glass windows by Louis Barillet. These were villas for the rich bourgeoisie, smooth white cubes that played with volume, light and space.
Mallet Stevens asked for his archives to be destroyed after his death in 1945, and he was largely forgotten until a retrospective of his work was shown at the Pompidou Centre in 2005. He has built other projects in Paris, a fire station, a garage and another villa which I look forward to discovering, as well as the Villa Paul Poiret about 40km from Paris, which has just been sold at auction.
Number 12 is owned by the Fondation Hippocrene. It is sometimes open for contemporary art exhibitions and is a great chance to step inside one of these beautiful villas. If you are in the area, continue on down rue du Docteur Blanche for another few minutes and you will be rewarded by the chance to visit Le Corbusier’s Maison la Roche.
- rue Mallet Stevens, 75016 Paris. metro: Ranelagh or Jasmin