The Feud over E.1027
Jealousy, misogyny, and territorial marking-
Much has been written about the bizarre love (?) triangle between Eileen Gray, E-1027 and Le Corbusier. We’ll never really know what transpired but here is the condensed version:
Eileen Gray designed E-1027 for her friend and lover (at the time), Jean Badovicci. She purchased the land in the south of France in 1926 and the building was complete by 1929. She met Le Corbusier though Badovicci and the two corrresponded from time to time. He considered her a friend, if not a protégée. While she was clearly influenced by Le Corbusier, she did not agree with his theories. She did not believe that the house was a "machine for living" but instead a place that expressed the specific needs of the individual.(1) E.1027 was designed for intimacy and privacy; its' interior is in constant flux with sliding walls and hidden moments that reflect the lifestyle, gender and sexuality of the woman who designed it.(2) Le Corbusier's interiors were designed for maximum sight lines and openness. Nonetheless Corbusier fell in love with the villa and was a frequent guest. It was one of the few buildings that he photographed- despite his view that photography was "a tool for idlers, who use a machine to do their seeing for them."(3) In 1932 EG moved out, gifting the house to Badovicci. And then it all went horribly awry.
In 1939 Le Corbusier wrote Badovicci, expressing his desire to “dirty the walls” with some murals.(4) Apparently Badovicci said yes- (Because why not.) and Le Corbusier painted eight murals throughout the small villa. In the nude. (As one does.) The photo on the left is a perfectly normal photo of Corb, the freaky houseguest in the act of defacing E.1027. And no this is not a private photo that some how made its way into the public sphere- Corbusier circulated this himself. He was proud of it.(5)
Some of the murals contain sexual imagery, albeit in an abstract fashion. One mural in particular appeared to be a man, a woman, and what Le Corbusier described as “the desired child that was never born”. (6) The origin of these nudes may have been popular post cards of the time, of nude Algerian women. (7) Some of which Corbusier purchased in the 30's. Whatever the origin, EG was understandably outraged and referred to this as vandalism. Angered by her critique, Corb published photos of the murals in 1948 without any credit to the architecture or architect, referring to it simply as "this villa”, so that one might assume he was the author of the work. He featured photos of the murals in E-1027 in multiple publications, never crediting the architecture or Eileen Gray. The very fact that he published images of the villa, led many to assume (incorrectly) that he was the architect and added to the confusion over its attribution.
He continued to be obsessed with the house, buying up the surrounding property in 1950 and building a small home of his own, practically on top of it. In 1956 he attempted to purchase the house unsuccessfully. Nonetheless he continued to monitor it from his neighboring property, preventing the new owners from renovating it. Obsessed to the end, he died of a heart attack in 1965 while swimming in the water below it.
His last sight before dying may have been of E-1027.
The house, including the murals, is currently being restored by the Friends of E.1027. http://www.e1027.org/donate
Thirsty for more? Don't forget to check out our custom cocktail, The Stalker, inspired by the Feud over E.1027.
Sources: Peter Adam, Eileen Gray: Architect/Designer (New York: Harry N. Abrahms, 1987)
Beatriz Colemina, " Battle Lines: E.1027
Philippe Garner, Eileen Gray: Designer and Architect ( Taschen, 1993)
Jennifer Goff, Eileen Gray: Her work and Her World ( Irish Academic Press, 2015)
Jasmine Rault, Eileen Gray and the Design of Sapphic Modernity: Staying In ( Ashgate Publishing 2011)
3.Le Corbusier, Creation is a Patient Search, New York Frederic Praeger, 1960) as quoted in Battle Lines.