Saturday, December 08, 2012

Reading Notes: E. 1027: The Nonheroic Modernism of Eileen Gray by Caroline Constant

Tonight I stumbled across an article, published in the Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, Vol.53, No.3, Published in 1994 by the University of California Press. In it, the author, Caroline Constant provides her interpretation of E.1027.

Here's the link, which can be accessed through your online library account:

It seems that Eileen was at odds with a lot of manifestos that were being published at the time, which reduced homes to "machines for living". She argued, "The poverty of modern architecture stems from the atrophy of sensuality. Everything is dominated by reason in order to create amazement without proper research. We must mistrust pictorial elements if they are not assimilated by instinct. It is not a matter of simply constructing beautiful ensembles of lines, but above all, dwellings for people." There is much speculation over how much Badovici was actually involved in the design and construction process, but Constant argues that the design was in fact a partnership between Badovici and Gray. Badovici provided guidance and technical expertise to Eileen during design and construction, while Gray focused on the more human aspects of the design.

As the above quote may suggest, Gray tirelessly imagined how users would inhabit the space she was designing. She meticulously implemented a number of design features that would improve the experience of the user. For example, since she also designed all the furniture for the house, the headboards for all the beds incorporate a hot water heater, an alarm clock, and spaces for books. Each room has it's own private terrace, equipped with a pool of sand (water attracts mosquitoes) to cool or warm one's feet. The mailbox is visible through a small window in the master bedroom, so Badovici could see if the post man had visited yet or not. The list goes on. Entry and threshold were also important to Gray. One diagram in particular maps out all the possible ways in which a visitor could enter and move through the house, and the relation of these movements to the path of the sun. (See below.)

The article analyses a number of other aspects of Gray's design, and is well worth the read. Check it out!


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