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Monthly Archives: May 2015

A professor once told me Eileen Gray (1878-1976) was a furniture designer. Of course she was, but she was also an architect. I am not sure why my professor failed to mention this. Perhaps he ‘forgot’. Although she was rarely mentioned in our history and theory books, I never forgot her name; a female name amidst a sea of male names.

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Gray deserves to be singled out as an architect, as an independent practitioner, and for her contribution to a (still) male-dominated profession. Her work seems to have been slow to find its way out of obscurity. Thankfully, the 2014 documentary Gray Matters and a new biopic released in March of this year entitled The Price of Desire, bring her name, her work and her life into the spotlight.

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Stills from the set of The Price of Desire with Eileen Gray (played by Orla Brady) and her lover Marisa Damia (played by Alanis Morissette). Photography by Julian Lennon.

In her lifetime Gray’s uniqueness was also the reason for her isolation. She did not fit. She hadn’t studied at the same schools as her contemporaries and, as a woman, did not have access to the same opportunities. However, family support enabled her to build a career. Following her studies in London and Paris, she trained with Japanese craftsman Sugawara in lacquer work.

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Gray’s lacquer ‘Brick Screen’ and ‘Folding Screen’

Gray opened her furniture store, Jean Desert in 1922 and carried out interior design work before trying her hand at architecture. She was encouraged by her lover, architecture critic Jean Badovici, with whom she worked on E1027 at Roquebrune near Monaco where they eventually lived.

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Gray’s ‘Boudoir bedroom de Monte Carlo’ designed for the Salon des Artistes Decorateurs

A true gesamtkunstwerke (though she did not belong to the Bauhaus school), the house and furniture were all designed by Gray with some technical input from Badovici. E1027 was in disrepair by the beginnig of this century and a large amount of restoration work has been carried out over the last decade. Gray Matters and The Price of Desire played a role in completing some of this work as both films shot inside E1027. The film The Price of Desire reveals much about Gray’s interpersonal relationships including the theory that Le Corbusier defaced the house with his murals.

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Gray’s E1027 on the cliff face

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Gray’s E1027 Interior

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Gray’s ‘Black Board’ rug, one of the rugs found inside E1027
There is much to be learned from Gray and E1027 and I hope to see the two aforementioned films soon. Perhaps they can fill the gap left by my history and theory books.

As architects we are involved in the process of cladding buildings, but many of us also take the process of cladding ourselves quite seriously. The word ‘architectural’ is somewhat overused in fashion, but there are a number of designers who do produce clothing, accessories and shoes that have a very strong relationship with architecture due to their geometry and detailing. As well, there are architects who design clothing, accessories and shoes.

One of the better known architects designing shoes is Rem D. Koolhaas, nephew of the Rem Koolhaas and also an architect. He founded United Nude some years ago and Zaha Hadid recently designed 3D-printed shoes for United Nude which are now available. They are ‘slightly’ beyond my budget. (We’re talking about a  ‘new laptop vs Zaha shoes’ dilemma.) The mainline includes the amazing Eamz shoes that I have written about previously, based on the Eames‘ chair.

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United Nude x Zaha Hadid shoes

I haven’t been able to determine if the designers behind the label Building Block are also architects but the influence is pretty clear in both the name and the construction of their handbags. Focusing on pure geometry, the bags even have geometric names like cylinder and square. The branding is also very architectural; bags are photographed against white walls with different textures or taped to a black background with coloured and metallic tape.

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Building Block cylinder and square bags

Miansai‘s cuffs and rings use screws and hinges and they look like they could be used for construction. They kind of make me want to reconsider always using silver-coloured screws for construction. Rose gold screws anyone? Interestingly, not everything they produce is as architectural.
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Miansai Squared Ring, Modern Screw Cuff Ring and Modern Flat Ring

Reed Krakoff‘s jewellery also involves screws but its architectural quality is also evident in the use of grids. The ‘machined cuff’ is like a rolled up architectural facade.

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Reed Krakoff Machined Two-Tone Cuff and T-Bar Drop Earrings

Like Miansai, In God We Trust have a range of items and they’re not all particularly architectural, albeit very cool. I did get pretty excited seeing a pair of earrings simply called Bauhaus Earrings. I recently entered a competition for the design of the new Bauhaus Museum in Dessau so I have Bauhaus on the brain.

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IGWT Bauhaus Earrings

Halston Heritage has been around for a lot longer than some of the other brands mentioned above and have a very wide range of products, but their shimmering rectangular minaudieres fit the architectural profile.

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Halston Heritage Lucite Minaudieres

Maryam Nassir Zadeh has been getting noticed a lot lately and her collaboration with MAKE cosmetics is exciting both for its architectural appearance and its source of inspiration. It was inspired by Antonioni‘s film Il Deserto Rosso. Though it may not be obvious, Antonioni did form part of my architectural education. It’s the branding that first caught my eye as the packages are presented as if they were a model of a city.

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MAKE Cosmetics x Mariam Nassir Zadeh Celeste e Verde collection

Like Rem D. Koolhaas, I have also applied my architectural training to design products. My own design store, Scaffold & Lace also focuses on pure geometry like Building Block. Our new collection is on its way but in the meantime, here are our geometric bamboo, walnut and felt brooches.

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Scaffold & Lace geometric brooches