The Swiss-French architect Le Corbusier was once quoted as saying “The house is a machine for living” — an insight into his somewhat totalitarian philosophies. In contrast to the stark nature of his reinforced concrete architecture, his paintings were ethereal and colourful.
Le Corbusier extensively researched the effect of colour, culminating in his Polychromie architecturale, a considered selection of shades and hues. Perhaps subconsciously, some of them made their way onto a new frame by Saffron Frameworks for a customer who happens to be an architect herself.
There are over sixty colors in the Polychromie architecturale, presented as painted swatches collated into a book form, designed to be selected in conjunction with each other. They were intended to be painted or wallpapered over interior or exterior surfaces, creating a more edifying living environment.
Intentional or not, this new road bike, built by London’s Matthew Sowter of Saffron Frameworks, bears striking similarities to Le Corbusier’s structures, such as the Saint-Pierre building in Firminy, France. Both are looming, monochromatic edifices with tiny daubs of coloured light.
This road frame was built for Nong, an architect who is also a competitive club cyclist. She wanted a ‘machine for riding’, that would assist her in becoming a better climber and descender. Matthew’s response will satisfy both criteria, and will satisfy aesthetic requirements as well.
Matthew selected a mix of Reynolds 953 and Columbus XCR tubing for the frame. The top and down tubes were fillet brazed to the head tube, and if you follow Saffron Frameworks on Instagram, you can begin to appreciate his adeptness with a file. It’s almost a shame to see them painted over.
A bi-laminate sleeve was crafted for the seat tube cluster, subtly incorporating a binding bolt, which keeps the lines smooth and clutter-free. The 3T Ionic Team Stealth seat mast flows seamlessly towards the bottom bracket shell, again fluidly fillet brazed at the junction.
It’s a paint scheme that’s full of surprises — a beguilingly nondescript profile that reveals vibrant secrets when viewed from a rear angle, only seen when Nong whizzes past. A small amount of steel has been left raw: the chain and seat stays can still be appreciated in their natural state.
The 72° head angle will keep Nong stable and confident at speed, with the inside fork leg decorated with the same swatch layout as the seat tube. Smooth rolling is assured, thanks to the Chris King bearings at all necessary points, such as the black hand built H Plus Son rims and R45 hubs.
The rest of the parts list reads with Shimano Dura-Ace and a 3T finishing kit. The sculptural saddle is an ALM unit from Fabric, which doesn’t detract from the bike in the slightest. Le Corbusier would be impressed. Special thanks to Matthew Townsend for the photos.