1924: Villa is designed by Eileen Gray (with Jean Badovici)
1927: Building is completed
1932: Eileen Gray leaves the house
1937-39: Le Corbusier marks the walls with murals; Gray is displeased at his intervention
1951: Le Corbusier builds Le Cabanon next door
1960: A patron of Le Corbusier, Madame Marie-Louise Schelbert, buys E1027 at his behest
1956: Jean Badovici dies
1965: Le Corbusier has a heart attack and dies whilst swimming in the sea below
1976: Eileen Gray dies
1982: Madame Schlbert dies and a Swiss doctor (Dr. Kaegi) buys E1027
1996: Dr Kaegi is murdered in the villa by his gardeners
1999: Municipality of Roquebrune-Cap-Martin and the French Government buy E1027
2008: Restoration begins on now dilapidated villa
On February 12th 2011, our party visited the site of E1027 in Roquebrune-Cap-Martin on the French Riviera. Before the trip, we studied drawings and photographs of the villa; however, there is a sense of tension and uneasiness to the place that only becomes apparent once there.
Noticeably, the villa is held between two massive and opposing forces of nature. To the north, densely inhabited and rugged cliffs surround the building, dramatically signifying the capitulation of the land to the Mediterranean. By contrast, the sea itself is flat and endless.
Looking along the coastline, modern mansions can be seen occupying the most exclusive sites. Each manages to conspicuously convey the prosperity of their owners, yet the ubiquity of their designs fails to create any valuable architectural forms. It is hard to reconcile this current setting with the peace that attracted Gray to choose the site.
At the villa itself, aesthetic disquiet is further felt. This time it is by Le Corbusier’s Cabanon, which provides an overpowering and disconcerting architectural accompaniment to E1027. Perhaps synonymous with the designers’ relationship, Le Corbusier’s studio and hostel sit uncomfortably at the shoulder of Gray’s villa. It is also noticeable that Le Corbusier’s Cabanon has been meticulously maintained, whilst Gray’s building, like her legacy, has until recently been left neglected.
Thankfully, the restoration of E1027 is underway, scheduled for completion in 2011. Work to the dilapidated shell is almost fully complete, although the progress to the interior remains hidden. Sadly, the motivation behind the restoration, as a final bitter insult to Gray, is at least in part to protect Le Corbusier’s illicit murals.
By Stuart McKenzie