Monday, April 29, 2013

Eileen Gray, E.1027 and The Price of Desire

Eileen Gray designed and built the world's first modern house, so architectural pundits insist. It's the iconic E.1027 situated on the lip of a cliff overlooking the Bay of Monaco on the French Riviera.

Eileen Gray
E.1027 is back in the news in a big way thanks to film director Mary McGuckian
 who is making a biopic, The Price of Desire about Gray. For the past number of years the house has been under the auspices of  undergoing a refurbishment programme but money has run out. McGuckian is raising money both from private donation and on Kickstarter, a crowd-funding website. A budget in the region of €192,000 is being sought by her, so that the house can used for filming instead of building a set.

 E.1027 has a checkered history. It began its life as a holiday get-away, gifted by
 Eileen to her then lover Jean Badovici; when Le Corbusier, arguably the most
famous architect of the time, defiled its pristine white walls with sexually explicit
murals, she left, never to return. The dispute with Le Corbusier continued until 
Badovici’s death in 1956 after which Le Corbusier built an elevated 2-storey hostel over looking E.1027 – he had already built his famous Cabanon in 1952 - and dedicated himself to the preservation of his murals. In 1960, E.1027 was bought by Madame Marie-Louise Schelbert of Zurich. Five years later Le Corbusier's body was found at the base of the cliffs. Madame Schelbert willed E.1027 to her doctor who transported and sold Gray's furniture in 1991 for today's equivalent of €390,000. The house was vandalised by squatters in June 1998.
 Despite an international campaign spearheaded by Irish architect Patrick Mellet who urged the Irish government to buy the house, it was bought by the Conservatoire du Littoral and declared a French national monument.  Ironically, it owes its salvation to Le Corbusier’s murals. Without them, rumour has, it would be left to rot. Plans for its restoration were prepared architect Renaud Barrès who was replaced by Pierre-Antoine Gattier. 

When I visited in 2008 the site was in full renovation spate and due to be opened in 2009. But money ran out and it lay dormant until now and McGuckian's intervention.

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