Recognized as one of the 20th centuries most important works of modern architecture, Eileen Gray's villa E1027 was nearly lost to history following years of obscurity, vandalism and neglect. Designed and built between 1926 and 1929, the small French Riviera holiday home was originally conceived as a refuge where Gray and her lover Jean Badovici could work in peace and relaxation while hosting occasional guests. The unique E1027 name was derived from an alpha numeric intermingling of the pair's initials - beginning with E, and followed by 10 for J (the 10th letter in the alphabet), 2 for B, and 7 for G.
While Gray's villa is firmly rooted in the modernist movement, it's noted as a standout for its subtle sensuality. In contrast to Le Corbusier's "A house is a machine for living in." Grey spoke of "a dwelling as a living organism" and believed that "The poverty of modern architecture... stems from the atrophy of sensuality." With this outlook in mind, E1027 was born of a sensitive and in depth study of wind, sun and site topography and was imbued with artistic details as well as throughtful architectural decisions including windows that ensure views from a position of repose, shutters that allow for complex modulations of light and breeze and furnishings, both free standing and built-in, designed with multiple tasks and movement in mind. Among villa E1027's earliest adornments were such iconic Gray designs as the adjustable E1027 Table and Satellite Mirror.
Sadly, for all the time and heart Gray put into the creation of her little love nest, by 1932 the relationship with Badovici had disintegrated and she left him and the home behind. In the years that followed, Badovici continued to reside at E1027 often hosting the famous Le Corbusier, who over the course of a series of visits painted seven bold and at times pornographic murals upon the pristine white walls of Gray's masterwork. Gray viewed Le Corbusier's interventions as acts of vandalism and if rumor is to be believed, Le Corbusier was in fact jealous that a woman should make such an important work in what he considered to be his own style.
Today, after decades of decline and decay, followed by 16 years of bureaucracy-filled renovation/restoration, villa E1027 has opened its doors once again. And while it may not be quite the home Eileen Gray had originally conceived - with restorations still under way and Le Corbusier's murals now protected works of art - it remains an incredible piece of architecture and design history with a fascinating story to tell. If only those walls could talk!
Tours are now available by appointment through capmoderne.com/fr/.
Photography by Manuel BOUGOT, and Tim Benton via The Gardian.