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Monday, October 03, 2005
This month's building study from the Twentieth Century Society is Eileen Gray's E. 1027 villa in the South of France. Gray's life is a fine example of the power of reputation. She is currently the subject of a retrospective at London's Design Museum (pdf information). As Gail Stevenson's text notes, E. 1027 has long been overshadowed by the often overbearing presence of Le Corbusier, who built his own holiday home and 'cabanons' nearby and fell out with Gray after he daubed Purist murals across her pristine white walls without her permission. Corb drowned while swimming just off the stretch of coast overlooked by the house (grimly, the house was also where an earlier owner was murdered by his gardeners in 1996). Restoration of E. 1027 is due to start early next year. Another review, Fiona McCarthy in the Guardian.

Gray designed very little, and built even less. Yet while her furniture is celebrated, E. 1027 has suffered, falling into disrepair. Sutherland Lyall, reviewing the Design Museum show in last week's Architect's Journal (ludicrous and expensive registration/subscription combination required), noted that her modest output has been inflated by the sheer ubiquity of two or three 'iconic' pieces, most notably the E. 1027 table and Bibendum armchair (both designed especially for the house, thanks to the free reign provided by her client - and lover - the Romanian architect Jean Badovici).

Born into a wealthy family, Gray never had to support herself through her work, and was thus able to throw herself into the glamorous inter-war scene, most notably in Paris, where she opened a pseudonymous gallery and worked as a designer on sumptuous, post-deco apartments before emerging as a fully-fledged, hard-edged modernist. After the war, and after the falling out with Corb, a lack of other commissions led to Gray effectively dropping off the map. Lyall writes that during this time the exhibition describes her as 'documenting her work'. 'For three decades?', he counters, 'Nothing wrong with rich, nothing wrong with misunderstood, and nothing wrong with neglibible output. But, after viewing the show, you are a tad inclined to go 'hmmm'.' Her furniture design endures, all the more so following a 1972 sale of Jacques Doucet's effects, which included many of her pieces (according to Lyall). A 1980 MoMA exhibition, four years after her death, 'crowned her as a major modernist.'

Surprisingly, the E1027 is just about childproof, if you make sure the spine is firmly against a wall so the cantilever supports your infant's weight as they haul themselves up to swipe off everything carefully arranged on top of it. The detachable glass top is becoming a bit of a worry, though.

*

After last week's military dioramas, here are some cake-basedlandscapes. Even more dioramas here, this time based on great scenes in motor racing. Both thanks to Blanketfort (who went mad for pencils last week).

An animated Necker Cube. The hyperstar is pretty neat as well / Empty Me make multi-functional bags / why marketing people are the type of people who act before they think / ever wanted to see into that 'Gated Community'? Now you can, thanks to the patented Heavy Trash viewing platform (via world changing, which has a sustainable design focus).

The Fame Machine examines this country's burgeoning yet benign celebrity culture. Two points: 'First, celebrity has become the productórather than just a device for marketing films or music,' 'Second, celebrities, agents, photographers and picture desks have found that the most efficient way to create an endless supply of celebrity news is to work together.'

That came via an in-depth City of Sound piece on the re-designed Guardian (a look that has yet to impact the newspaper's website) / jumping Manta Rays, via collision detection, which also marks the passing of Jeff Chapman, aka 'Ninjalicious', the man who pretty much single-handedly kick-started the urban infiltration movement, sneaking through every building, old to new.

Toogle search, words and pictures / Thee Silver Mt. Zionist, an mp3 weblog with a post-rock slant / The Design Encyclopaedia, an under consideration project / how to restore a Triumph Herald 13/60 / Geek History through T-shirts / Various Cosy Catastrophes and Dreadful Dooms, a list of fictional disaster scenarios.

Generic Sci-Fi Quarry, an installation that acknowledges British sci-fi's penchant for filming other-wordly scenes in abandoned quarries. More here at the cult TV archive / sci-fi spillover: The Montauk Project, an enduring myth that may, or may not, be woven into the narrative tapestry that is Lost (hint, don't trust anything you read at a sight called Mind Control Forums).

Visited on Sunday: Nunhead Cemetery, initially All Saints Cemetery, and now a verdant, overgrown oasis with tantalising glimpses across the City through the trees.