“There is a very great freedom of family life, the freedom to meet or to be isolated, to be together or each for himself.”
- Pierre Székély
“We had to be able to live in the middle of nature, without leaving the house.”
In a rural setting on the edge of a wood, on the edge of a hamlet, near the town of Valenciennes - this oddly shaped house has been listed as a monument. Known by a range of monikers over time, it has been the plant house, bottle house, flower house, or Verley House (named after its previous owner.) Built in Sebourg in 1971 it was designed by Hungarian sculptor Pierre Szekely and French architect Henri Mouette.
The house unfolds freely on a vast sloping ground, Szekely readily insists the rationality of the layout he has chosen, hiding the house in the valley below the town road above. The rounded shapes were made possible thanks to the use of the propelled concrete, a real architectural feat at the time. The windows too are rounded as if to better conform to the field of vision.
The entrance opens on to a covered walkway, a sort of tunnel lit by a wide bay, welcoming those who enter like a friendly face. Throughout there are alcoves lit by portholes, some of these alcoves are also bedrooms that open out in to the gardens.
Light has its own way of organising the space, revealing in the background the immense volume of the living room. A monumental fireplace serves as the centre of the living room space – here we can discover the landscape of meadows and woods and the serenity of this environment could be enjoyed daily by the people who inhabited it. Of his design Szekely said, “We had to be able to live in the middle of nature, without leaving the house.” The curved walls protect without imposing any limit, “As in dreams, they recede when you advance.”
Leaning on the fireplace, a staircase gives access to the entrance hall and to the mezzanine where an office library has been fitted. In the evening the cutaway windows repeat familiar images, enveloping the entire area in a fairyland of reflections.
Sadly, though the house was classified as a monument in 2002, it has since gone in to a state of disrepair. Covered in moss, it appears to be seemingly eaten up by the vegetation, since its first and last owner Michel Verley died in 2009.
Photography— Pierre Joly for L’oeil Magazine
Design — Hungarian sculptor Pierre Székély and architect Henri Mouette
Location — Sebourg, France