15 July 2016
E.1027: the Seafront House of EILEEN GRAY.
Overlooking the beach of Cabbé, in Roquebrune Cap-Martin, the e.1027 villa built by Eileen Gray from 1926 to 1929, is one of the gems of modern architecture. The designer put it into practice her belief that “human needs” should guide the design and “engineering art” is not enough.
Could modernity baptize a house “The Little nest ” or “The dream of my life”? Not really, especially when it is a revolutionary residential unit. This required a futuristic code name. It would be E-1027: “E for Eileen, 10 for the J of John, 2 for the B of Badovici, 7 for the G of Gray.” Through this code she imagines, Eileen Gray nests forever her initials with those of the man she loves, Jean Badovici, to whom she will offer the house just after their break up. If Eileen Gray never put again a foot in this house designed to live, create and love, Jean Badovici will remain the owner until his death in 1956.
Eileen Gray was born to an aristocratic Irish family. Independent and adventurous, she is enrolled at the Slade School of Art in London at 20 years-old. She moved to Paris in 1902, where she spent most of her life. She meets Seizo Sugawara, a Japanese master of lacquer, who introduced her to this laborious and potentially toxic art, that she will use to create lacquered screens to modern patterns, and the Art Deco style furniture that will ensure her prominence in the Parisian galleries until the end of the 20s. In the mid-1920s, under the influence of Jean Badovici, and Le Corbusier in particular, she becomes a supporter of modernism. Fallen into oblivion after the thirties, rediscovered in the 1970s, the designs of Eileen Gray are now considered the best parts of the Modern period. Inspired by the small house in Lake Geneva that Le Corbusier designed for his parents, Eileen Gray was thinking of building a “safe haven” to work in complete relaxation with her lover. She designs a fixed and mobile furniture, in continuity with the architecture of the place, this furniture is inseparable from the villa. The concept of E.1027 is that of a habitat model envisioned as a living organism, where space is an extension of the human body.
The two lovers share a little time. The summer of their break, Jean Badovici invites his friend, the architect Le Corbusier, who often stayed there until it builds in 1952 on a neighboring plot, its own wooden Shed. In two consecutive stays at the villa, Le Corbusier created on the white walls and decreed by Eileen Gray, more colorful frescoes, in total contradiction with the spirit of the place desired by the designer. As a small ship landed on the cliff, “E-1027 house in Seaside” is designed by Eileen Gray to be closer to the sea. The architect and designer invents a refined poesy in contact with elements – sea, wind, sun – with a wealth of ultramodern detail tending towards simplicity: simplicity of lifestyle, functionality furniture, convertible, retractable … generosity of space and organization of volumes Each bedroom .. each room has direct access to the outside shower and an office for the respect of subjective rhythms between action and dream. The holiday spirit prints the furniture created for the site. Thus, does the architectural manifesto for modernity outposts rely on an organic link between the outside (architecture), the body and the inner life of the occupant?
The house made entirely of concrete and bricks, painted in white, is base on stilts between the terraces (Provencal-style dry stone walls) and the rocks overlooking the sea Everything in the building, reminds the world of the boat. The running balcony like a ship’s deck, lifebuoys, tarpaulins and white and blue color variations. This seaside resort of a new kind, included in an agricultural landscape, combined with the time a completely modern vision of the habitat while reinterpreting traditional architecture elements: the flaps are sliding and technically designed to ventilate, but equipped with shutters reminiscent vernacular uses. The roof terrace is open to the four winds, surrounded by a wall like a frieze, which leads to a spiral staircase topped by a circular skylight. Chimneys resemble those ships, but are miniaturized. Balconies, railings are white lacquered tubular metal. Instead of windows, these are windows that fold accordion wisely as screens -a nod to Art Deco screens beginning. At the end of the room, a door opens onto a shaded balcony dedicated to nap in a hammock, facing the blue immensity.
Inside and outside are replying to each other. No interruption or abrupt separation. Inside the house, volume is modulated at will. The architecture is organized into spaces in a room of 50 m2 without separations: a corner alcove, a sofa corner for two, a shower behind a screen wall, and opposite, a bar-dining area. As on a boat, everything fits in a minimum of space in order to “leave everyone free and independent.” Architectural or feminist manifesto? For convenient storage for everyone regardless of gender, this spirit of liberating order is materialized by small labels stenciled on the wall or furniture, specifying the names of things: “pillows » closet tablet « for the teeth” in the bathroom or closet ‘robes. On his drawings and plans, Eileen Gray postpones subspace containing movable furniture, fixed or integrated accompanying all activities. This furniture will be made especially for the Villa: the Transat armchair inspired by transatlantic crossings seats, the Bibendum chair, the “Marine First » carpet, the clever circular chrome bedside table called E-1027 table … as many coins which today attracts collectors in the auctions house which still circulate the original models.
It was only in the 1970s that the paternity of the villa is finally returned to its creator. In 1937 and 1938, Le Corbusier stayed at the villa in order to achieve its murals. The first year he made two, followed the year after by five. He will return in 1949 and restored in 1963 after the death of Badovici, who had threatened to erase to calm the anger of Eileen Gray. According to his biographers, the designer did not like at all this intervention of Corbu. But she never came back to the villa after 1930 and saw the frescoes much later, through photographs. Today, are just as much as the house, gardens and grounds, classified as historical monuments.
On this “Modern Cap” (the name of the association created in 2014 to manage and develop the site), Le Corbusier spent thirteen summers in his shed with his eyes under the sea, the wild garden and villa Eileen Gray below. When he daily swam in the Bay of Cabbé, he was admiring the hill where stood his shed, this handkerchief where he spent the happiest moments of his life with his wife and friends, naked and free . And on August 27, 1965 when his heart loose and he drowns in this creek, that is exactly under the white walls of the villa who dazzled him for one last time.
– 2016 (October) 40th anniversary of the death of Eileen Gray.
– Home listed under the Historic Monuments.
– Opening to the public for the second year of e.1027 since its restoration.
– Brunch and tour in July 3rd, 2015 (55 euros / person Booking on the site www.capmoderne.com.)
– Evening Lights at E.1027: dinner and fireworks (fireworks festival in Monaco). Dates: 25th and 30th of July, 6th and 13th of August 2016.
ACCESS: Train station of Roquebrune-Cap-Martin. Office on the side of the parking lot (Cabbé district) at the headquarters of the association Cap Modern located in a white car.
Booking tours on www.capmoderne.com site. Phone: 06 48 72 90 53
Length of visit: 2h30