Archive for December, 2008


Thursday, December 25th, 2008

>>\|\|\|\|||V/ by Scrambler27.

I hope that whichever winter festival you celebrate, it is happy. Here in Vancouver we will remain buried under three unheard-of feet of snow, waiting helplessly for the thaw and staying clear of the roads, since Vancouverites don’t know how to drive in it. For those who do Christmas it will, quite amazingly, be white. Photo above is accurately titled >>\|\|\|\|||V/. From Flickr.

Eileen Gray’s E-1027 house

Wednesday, December 24th, 2008

E-1027 house by Eileen Gray

villa e1027 by lesacablog.


E1027 house by Eileen Gray, living room

E1027 house by Eileen Gray, exterior by Eleni

In the late 1920s, the modernist designer and architect Eileen Gray designed and built a landmark piece of modernist architecture in the form of a seaside house. The Irish-born Gray is best known for her furniture design (her Bibendum chair is visible in the third photo above), but this is odd considering her architectural contributions. On a hill overlooking the Mediterranean at Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, France, Gray’s E-1027 house was built to share with her lover, critic Jean Badovici. The name of the house sounds impersonal, but it is in fact a numeric code for their joint initials; that interesting story is here. Also see a story about the building of the house by Patricia O’Reilly, who has also written a novel based on Gray’s life  (and who has kindly commented below). The house has steadily fallen into disrepair, and in the 1990s the house’s furniture, also designed by Gray, was sold off by its owner to fund house repairs. But the house continued to distintegrate until efforts to save it were apparently successful in 2000. It was mostly restored (see second photo above), then again fell into disrepair, and now seems to be going through a second restoration.

Gray’s inexplicable obscurity delayed the restoration project for far too long. Here is a description about its condition in the 90s:

What’s… remarkable is that E1027 is still a deteriorating ruin. When I lived in Monaco in 1995-7, I tried once to find it, but no locals could figure out what I was talking about. The most comprehensive images I’ve seen, though, are on flickr, a photoset made by Daniel, an Irish architect, who hopped the fence in 1997 when the house was a squat [the last owner had been murdered a couple of months prior.] I can’t find any images of Gray’s last house, Lou Perou, which was done near St Tropez, either. And I can’t find any word on the status of her own house, Tempe a Pailla, which was inland, up the mountains from Roquebrune & Menton in the village of Castellar. How is it that no modernist pilgrims have tracked and documented this stuff?

[Important update: there is new information about what has happened to this house at my post here and also in the comments below. Thank you. You may also want to listen to a “By Design” 2011 radio segment on the house on Australian Broadcasting Corp – audio is here at 15:18]

Corbusier, his wife & Jean Badovici in Eileen Gray's E1027 house

The photo above shows Corbusier, his wife and Jean Badovici, photographed by Gray. When you start researching the house,  you begin to suspect that Corbusier had something to do with Gray’s obscurity, and in fact many believe this. (See the link above for a summary of an interesting paper by Beatriz Colomina). It’s hard to determine what role Corbusier played in this, but it’s clear that he was extremely fascinated by E-1027.

Le Corbusier, arguably the greatest architect of the 20th century, was obsessed and haunted by E-1027, the seaside villa Eileen Gray built at Roquebrune Cap Martin in 1929. Over the decades, he sought to possess her “maison en bord de mer” in a multitude of ways. It may have been the last thing he saw before dying of a heart attack while swimming off the rocks beneath E-1027 in 1965. After he died, the footpath serving the area was designated Promenade Le Corbusier. In time, as Gray’s reputation faded, some would even credit him with the design of her villa.

More here. It’s known that Gray was infuriated by Corbusier’s alterations of the villa, especially the murals he painted on it while she was away and which she felt had vandalized it. She never returned to the house after that, and even in her nineties it was said she was still fuming about it. (The house’s recent disarray is obvious in the second mural photo. Again, full set of Flickr photos by Irish architect Daniel is here.)

e.1027 by Elen..

e.1027 by Elen..

Gray disagreed strongly with Corbusier’s idea of a house as a machine, arguing for a more organic conception of a functional living space. To this end she built her house taking into consideration the angle of the sun and the wind and the elements of the site, so that in every season the house fit into its environment but also, and more importantly, provided maximum pleasure for its inhabitants.

In 2008 the house was listed by Building Design as one of the world’s most romantic buildings, whatever that means. This house ought to be listed in an entirely less silly (and ghettoized feminine) category, one that doesn’t further deprive this house of the status it deserves.

Photo of restored house from flickr.

For more information about the house and a group working to save it, click below. Monograph on Gray’s work available from Amazon: Eileen Gray: Her Life and Work.


Eileen Gray – Tubelight and E1027 Table.

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2008

Eileen Gray, 1927, E-1027 adjustable table

Eileen Gray (1878-1976) produced some iconic pieces of early modernist design in a profession and an era hardly designed for women. Raised in Ireland, she trained in London and Paris and worked most of her life in France. She was a close friend of Corbusier’s and it seems clear that the design influences ran both ways, yet her Tubelight and her E-1027 table are still much more well-known than she is. Fortunately her name is slowly becoming better recognized outside design circles. These two pieces, both created in 1927, stand up well nearly a hundred years later and both are still in constant production. The table was designed for her sister, who liked to eat breakfast in bed and couldn’t find an appropriate surface. But it is named for the E-1027, the house Gray designed and built for her lover, the critic Jean Badovici, and that is where it was first shown. Her tubelight is equally compelling. Upcoming posts will include photos of these pieces as they were originally shown.

eileen gray tubelight, 1927

BC Binning house, in photographic works by artist Arni Haraldsson

Sunday, December 21st, 2008




Vancouver artist Arni Haraldsson, known for his photographic studies of modernist architecture and his research on Corbusier, produced these three photographs of the house of another artist, BC Binning, in 1994. Binning, a painter, built a beautiful little modernist house for himself and his wife in West Vancouver, B.C. in 1940. West Vancouver, for a set of complicated reasons, is home to most of the Vancouver area’s best residential modernism. This is a beautiful, functional house; see more photos of it here. Haraldsson’s works appear here courtesy Catriona Jeffries Gallery, Vancouver.  “Entrance with Exterior Mural, B.C. Binning House (1940), West Vancouver, Bert Binning, Architect”, 1994, details here. “Terrace Doors, B.C. Binning House (1940), West Vancouver, Bert Binning, Architect” can be seen here. And “Picture Gallery, B.C. Binning House (1940), West Vancouver, Bert Binning, Architect” is here

BC Binning's home studio, in Canadian Architect

The photo above of Binning in his home studio is from an article on the Binning house in and the whole article is worth reading. “Surrounded by Paintbrushes, Canvas and Other Tools of His Trade, Artist B.C. Binning Is Seated in His Home Studio in This Photograph From 1950.”

Nanna Ditzel

Saturday, December 20th, 2008

Nanna Ditzel - textiles and stairscape, 1966

Nanna Ditzel is considered the “first lady of Danish design,” which is one of those informative yet cringe-worthy labels that just highlights the whole problem of accidentally ghettoizing designers who happen to be women by the very act of celebrating the fact that they’re women designers. You can’t win. One doesn’t want to go on about their gender, but it’s impossible not to want to, because one wants to give these groundbreaking female designers as much recognition as possible – 20th C design was a world women had to fight hard to win recognition in. In Ditzel’s case, at least, her work was and remains moderately well-known, and over her long career she did win major international awards and acclaim and her work for Georg Jensen has brought her additional attention. She was an extremely versatile designer, working in furniture, textiles, accessories and jewelry. She created textiles for the Danish firm Unika-Vœv, and the “Stairscape” above was created in 1966 for their showroom, with her trademark split-level floor seating and low cushions. Her 1959 “Egg Hanging Chair” is now an iconic piece of modern design and doesn’t seem dated. We love her. And Eileen Gray. And Barbara Brown. And dozens of other female designers who deserve to be much better known than they are. 

Nanna Ditzel, Egg Hanging Chair, 1959

Nanna Ditzel, Egg Hanging Chair, 1959

"Swirl" money clip by Nanna Ditzel for Georg Jensen

Nanna Ditzel Portrait, 1980s

Stainless steel “Swirl” money clip above is still available from Georg Jensen for US$40. More information on Ditzel here, here and here.

Stefan Boublil

Friday, December 19th, 2008

alarm clock, chosen by stefan boublil

Stefan Boublil of the NY design company The Apartment has done a holiday shopping guide for the NYT. Stefan is great because he tends to go for items that are useful, beautiful and clearly thought out. The yellow clock above is the On-Off LCD alarm clock by Nina Tolstrup for Lexon of France. The design is neat – once the alarm is set in the “On” position you just tilt the clock to turn it off. It has the kind of un-muddled design sense Stefan likes to promote. We first heard of Stefan Boublil on the Sally TV blog, where he was shown pictures of furniture and asked to give his (droll) opinion, yay or nay. You can read the whole interview on Sallytv (warning, profanity) but here’s a taste:

Danish Empire settee, excoriated by Stefan Boublil

Name:  Danish Empire Settee
Designer:  Who fucking knows
Year:  Circa 1800

Stefan: get that off! get that off!
Sally: danish empire settee! i’ve never seen anything quite like that. what a fucking train wreck.
Stefan: sometimes i don’t understand the human brain and its capacity for horror.
Sally: i love everything about that settee. if i have children this will be their time out sofa.
Stefan: looks like something a danish king should want to be buried in.
Sally: i wish the base were drawers. i would keep all my dirty secrets in them.
Stefan: not enough room.
Stefan: i’d like to see torches on each side, so that you can clearly see the virgin you’re sacrificing on the pillow.
Sally: so anyway, this one is my favorite. it’s that awful.
Sally: yay or nay?
Stefan: über-nay

For his view on the sofa below and other objects, click here:

Sofa, with commentary by Stefan Boublil