Eileen Gray

September 20, 2007

This is some reading I was doing last weekend actually but didn’t get down on the typewriter at the time. I don’t know how it will be useful but I have a feeling its something I want to apply. I’m particularly interested in her use and style of drawings. Which I feel might be helpful for me as I go on.
Gray said of her own work when it was displayed at the first exhibition of the Union des Artites Modernes in 1930, “House envisioned from a social point of view: minimum of space, maximum of comfort.? The house she’d designed had, “orientation of the main living space to southern exposure and view and of the bedrooms to the rising sun; segregation of private areas from public zones fo the house; and isolation of service spaces.? (269) By that, they mean the kitchen, which is a concept that wouldn’t fly today. But the house in question was designed for a bachelor with a housekeeper so naturally they would want their separate domains to be isolated. Contemporary ideas of housing (especially in my budget range) make those two characters into the same person.
She was a fringe modernist who questioned many of the ideals and style of her contemporaries. “External architecture seems to have absorbed avant-garde architecture at the expense of the interior. As if a house should be conceived for the pleasure of the eye more than the well-being of its inhabitants … Theory is not sufficient for life and does not answer to all of its requirements.? That is Gray directly from page 265.
Her Philosophy:
Again, Gray herself: “The thing constructed is more important than the way it is constructed, and the process is subordinate to the plan, not the plan to the process. It is not only a matter of constructing beautiful arrangements of lines but above all, dwellings for people.? (274/5) I couldn’t agree more.
She was critical of modernism’s too great need for order. “The poverty of modern architecture,? she wrote, “stems from the atrophy of sensuality.? The dominance of reason, order and math leave a house cold and inhumane without some mediation of instinct, intuition or sense they produce unlivable space. (275)
Her Methodology:
Gray used a “folded out? style of drawing where the elevations were arranged around the plan to give greater expression and emphasis to interiors. (This method was also used by de Stijl.) It tends to isolate each room from the whole plan which worked for Gray because her interest was in the multifunctionality of key areas in the building. Incidentally it was a huge departure from the rest of her modernist fellows who were focusing on the flowing of one space into each other. “Each room takes on attributes of an entire dwelling. This type of drawing articulates the principal of total concept of design wherein wall and window, furnishings, floor and carpeting contribute equally to the creation of a microcosm, a complete and private milieu.? (272)

This is from “The Non-Heroic Modernism of Eileen Gray? by Caroline Constant


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