Help Restore Villa E1027 by Eileen Gray

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

I guess it’s not a coincidence that the two Modernist works of architecture that I chose to study in depth while in graduate school were both built in France and created by designers whose skills and works were undervalued for the first 40-50 years of their careers. 

The first work was E1027 by Eileen Gray in Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, France — a modern yet sensual, and eminently livable, masterpiece that was admired (although ultimately defaced) by Le Corbusier. The second work was the Maison de Verre by Pierre Chareau, in Paris — also admired by Corbusier (albeit more covertly), and considered by some to be “the road not taken” in classical Modernism.  Both buildings were built with an awareness of the tenets of Modernism, but by designers that were much more motivated by functionalism and the rhythm of daily living than their staritect contemporaries. 

I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to tour the Maison de Verre when I was in Paris last October. Unfortunately, E1027 has not fared as well over time, and is currently in a state of extreme disrepair. Thankfully, after the house was left vacant and abandoned to squatters for years, the Conservatoire Du Littoral, a public entity charged with the preservation of the French coastline, purchased E1027 in 1999 and had it declared a historical landmark. And recently, the Conseil Générale has undertaken the project to restore the work, along with the commune Roquebrune-Cap-Martin Alpes-Maritimes.  

Sadly, the process is a slow one, and after five years, only the exterior has been completed. Enter EG Film Productions, the production company behind the upcoming The Price of Desire, an international feature film inspired by the life of Eileen Gray, and Gray Matters, a documentary of the architect, who have started a Kickstarter campaign to increase funding for the restoration project. Financing for their feature film is closed and has already been completely secured. The Art Department budget for their film has also been met. Yet, as things stand today, their funding only allows for temporary, cosmetic improvements to the property, for the sole purpose of filming. With this campaign, it is EG Film’s intent to secure $250,000 above and beyond what they need to shoot the film so that they may contribute permanently, rather than temporarily, to the restoration of the site. 

There are many reasons that I am excited by this particular project. One, it draws attention to an architectural work that I personally admire. Two, it contributes to the making of a film about an artist whose value was severely overlooked by the Modernist movement. And three, it seeks to effect permanent, positive change rather than temporary, aesthetic waste.

Having visited the Maison de Verre, I firmly believe in the value of experiencing works by humanistic Modern artists like Pierre Chareau and Eileen Gray.  And while I may never get the chance to see E1027 in person, I do look forward to the films, and I hope that others will have the opportunity to visit this wonderful landmark soon.