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The Avions Voisin A-JT Laboratoire has been designed from an original perspective, with its small headlights and straight lines, quite literally ‘breaking the mould’ in present-day car design.

The full scale aluminum model provided the necessary insights in how the 3D drawings worked out in real life. With this knowledge in mind, the design process developed, all the while remaining true to the original concept. Continuous experimenting and fine tuning, led to a harmonious design. Most striking perhaps is the newly designed grille which gives the Voisin an imposing and confident character, with a chic and elegant look.

The lower curve of the grille is a clear reference to the smooth and quiet DynaStart, a starter motor developed by Voisin himself and a trademark design feature of the later Voisins. The distinctive crease line over the door section is now extended up to the rear, making the car immediately more fluent and coherent as a whole. This modification gives the car body a slim, dynamic and delicate appearance, which is essential for a large automobile like the Voisin.

Avions Mies

A lot has been written about the relationship between Le Corbusier and Voisin. They met only once, but it is true they admired each other’s work, that Le Corbusier adorned pictures of his houses with Voisin automobiles and that Voisin financed Corbusier’s 1925 Voisin Plan for Paris. Like his famous contemporaries in architecture, Voisin applied rational principles to his designs, perhaps best noticeable in his airplanes. Pure, simple, lightweight -in fact he built the very first machine heavier than air to fly -in Europe that is. (Voisin himself however considered the Wright brother’s efforts a case of ‘falling with style’, and claimed to have build the first true airplane-worldwide.

1929 Mies van der Rohe: structure, efficiency, space and a roof about to take off into the sky.

Houdini II

Evidence suggests that Houdini’s flight in the Voisin Biplane was also the first powered flight caught on film. Cinema, being one of the other great new art forms of the 20th century, has had an impact on architecture. As we can read from a piece on Metropolis as a part of a Yale study of the influence of architecture on cinema and vice versa: “Today we have technology in the form of cellphones, iPods, laptops, Blackberrys, the internet and Maya, which are a distinctly different beast than cars and airplanes. In fact, stuff like a 3-d modeling program isn’t technology at all. It’s magic.” Wow.... like, we didn’t know that already, you know. But okay: here it is, and just to show everybody that advertising, architecture, magic, cinematography and bureaucracy were already deeply in love at the beginning of this century, let me show you this evidence, a picture of ‘illegal advertising’ made by the Amsterdam Office of Building and Advertising Control in 1927, of the Rembrandt Theatre, Amsterdam, the scene of the Great Houdini only 24 years earlier, now showing Fritz Lang’s Metropolis.


On January 21, 1903, just 9 days after a successful performance at the Rembrandt Theatre, Amsterdam, Harry Houdini added to his fame by making a great escape from the police station Halvemaansteeg, Amsterdam. (a building in our days occupied by the appropriately named Café Los (café ‘loose’). Then, seven years later, on March 18, 1910 Houdini was to put on another great show by making the first controlled, powered flight of an airplane in Australia, at Digger's Rest in Victoria, Australia -for those of you who live in the neighbourhood: a mile or so from the Digger’s Rest Railway Station. Harry Houdini reportedly bought his Voisin Biplane while touring in Hamburg for a mere 5000 US dollars. After his series of succesful flights ‘The Argus’ newspaper quotes him as saying “When I went up for the first time I thought for a minute that I was in a tree, then I knew I was flying. The funny thing was that as soon as I was aloft, all the tension and strain left me... ... As soon as I was up all my muscles relaxed, and I sat back. feeling a sense of ease. Freedom and exhilaration, that’s what it is...” Freedom and exhilaration, Voisin and Houdini.

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