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The invention of the “Chalet” in Megève

By Henry-Jacques Le Même

Did you know?
In 1927, the architect Henry-Jacques Le Même designed a holiday home for Baroness Noémie de Rothschild, inspired by Savoy farms: That was how the very first “ski chalet” came to be!
A chalet that is traditional yet practical, with all modern comforts and an open design.

The architect’s original creation of the “chalet” was widely imitated and definitely made its mark on the concept of individual accommodation in the mountains, in combining agropastoral architecture with tourist architecture. Le Même was the key architect responsible for the transformation of Megève (once a rural village) into a great resort of the Alps, with the creation of around two hundred chalets, as well as hotels, schools, shops, bars, nightclubs, etc.

“I tried to concentrate this project into a volume that resembled the local farms, seventeen metres across the front, a roof with two equal sides… But I immediately saw the huge difference between what was being asked of me and this Savoy farm where the horses and cows resided, with a tiny dwelling for the farmer and hay on the roof. This project was about farms with optimal comfort, luxury comfort”.
Testimony from Henry-Jacques Le Même

There are now three chalets in Megève that were built by Henry-Jacques Le Même, bearing the “20th century heritage site” label, awarded by the Ministry of Culture, to showcase and protect the architectural and urban heritage of this century:
– La Croix-des-Perchets in 1928
– Le Grizzly in 1932
– Le Cairn in 1941
Thanks to Henry-Jacques Le Même, Megève has become the international symbol for French “art-de-vivre” in the mountains.

Henry-Jacques Le Même

Profile of the Architect of the Mountains

Henry-Jacques Le Même was originally from Nantes and studied at the Ecole régionale des Beaux-Arts in Nantes, then at the Ecole nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris. He was a gifted architect and was awarded (among others) the Grand Prix de Rome. He was the chief architect for the Observatoire de Paris, the National Natural History Museum, etc.

He was in poor health and often came to Haute-Savoie to benefit from the pure mountain air. In 1925, he opened his own architecture agency in Megève. A few weeks later, the Baroness called upon his services. The very first “chalet” was unveiled in 1927. More than 1,000 others followed.

House, known as the Chalet le Coteau – Main elevation. Henry Jacques Le Même , [1928] © Région Rhône-Alpes General inventory of cultural heritage >

After the Second World War, Henry-Jacques Le Même became chief architect for reconstruction and urban planning in Savoie, during this period he built public infrastructure. In Megève, he built public buildings such as the nursery school, primary school and secondary school. He also restored the Church of Saint John the Baptist in 1955.

Today, Megève owes a lot to this famous architect. Thanks to his remarkable work, Henry-Jacques Le Même gave the village the model for the main type of accommodation available there, and at the same time, created its visual identity.

< House, known as the Chalet le Coteau – Main elevation. Henry Jacques Le Même, [1928]- © Région Rhône-Alpes General inventory of cultural heritage