Despite unsuccessful attempts to materialise the projects on which Charles-Édouard Jeanneret has been working as a consulting engineer since he moved to Paris, a man, François Thévenot, will trust him and offer him in 1917 the opportunity to carry out his first construction in France.
With the water tower at the Chavat property in Podensac, his first project in France, Le Corbusier sealed what would make him the “brilliant” innovative architect that we know. If this water tower can pass unnoticed today, it was then, with the residence of François Thévenot its sponsor, the highest building of the commune and the surroundings, dominating the Garonne as well as the wooded landscapes or covered with vineyards.
Designed for the sole purpose of supplying the Chavat property with drinking water, the “Château d’eau Le Corbusier” is, in reality, much more than a technical work: it offers François Thévenot, twenty meters above from the ground, a remarkable gazebo, a relaxation area in near-weightlessness. This building, disused in 1941, escaped destruction twice before being identified in 1975 as a work by Le Corbusier.
The history of this water tower is intimately linked to that of the park adjoining it. Overlooking the Garonne, the Domaine Chavat is considered by the Historic Monuments as one of the most beautiful parks in New Aquitaine. The garden, with its harmonious lines and balanced proportions, was designed in 1916 by the Parisian landscaper Charles Bouhana. Taking up the tradition of Italian gardens, François Thévenot called on the Italian Ernesto Gazzeri who punctuated the various landscape scenes with ancient sculptures, each expressing the traits of his personality. With an English composition, but also a French one, with a water mirror colored by the grace of a magnificent rose garden, this garden tells us a more intimate story. That of an entrepreneur, creator of overworked genius, who sought, in the heart of this green setting, a haven of peace.
When the property was sold in 1934, the city offered this place of tranquility, until the dawn of the 21st century, to the residents of the retirement home. The Domaine Chavat is today animated by an ambitious restoration project intended to restore it to its former glory and make it a high place of regional heritage, unique in its kind: total work of art, Chavat, beyond of its remarkable garden, has in fact preserved its castle, its exceptional glass roof decorations and part of its original furniture.