Restoration of Villa E-1027 by Eileen Gray

Built on an isolated stretch of the French Riviera, on the western side of Cap Martin overlooking the bay of Monaco sits an icon of modern architecture; Eileen Gray’s Villa E-1027.

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Photographers: Manuel Bougot & Tim Benton

Designed by Irish born architect Eileen Gray, Villa E-1027 was completed in 1929 on France’s Côte d’Azur. The site was chosen for its beauty and scenic views. Built directly into the terrain Gray carefully considered the surrounding landscape and conditions and in this way was able to design a house that interacted with the natural elements surrounding it. The open and flexible design allows the user to harmoniously engage with the sea and surrounding hills. At the same time her design allowed the user to maintain a feeling of intimacy and privacy, which she deeply valued.

Although designed according to modernist principles, Gray took issue with the chief architect of modernism, Le Corbusier who famously said, “The house is a machine to live in.” Gray described the house as an extension of the human experience, “it is not a matter of simply constructing beautiful ensembles of lines, but above all, dwellings for people.”

Originally built for Gray and her lover, Jean Badovici, E-1027 heavily influenced the work of Le Corbusier and became an object of his jealous fixation. After Gray and Badovici split Le Corbusier infamously defaced the pristine white planes of the house with eight colourful, highly sexualized murals while staying as a guest. Villa E-1027 spent much of the 20th century in disrepair. It was used for target practice by German soldiers during World War II and witnessed the murder of its owner before being abandoned in the 1990s and occupied by squatters. After over a decade of mismanagement and controversial repairs its restorations have finally been completed and the modernist villa is finally open to visitors.