arrow-circle-down arrow-circle-left arrow-circle-up arrow-down arrow-left arrow-line-right arrow-right arrow-up ballon close facebook filter glass lock menu phone play point q question search target twitter

Eileen Gray: diseño y arquitectura para una nueva forma de vivir


Pioneer, visionary. Tireless, creative mind. Multifaceted, experimental, multidisciplinary. Admired and envied, yet invisible and forgotten. Independent, enigmatic, captivating, openly bisexual.

Eileen Gray (1878-1976) was one of those people who leave their mark. An Irish artist, designer and architect ahead of her time - or beyond her time - who created iconic pieces of furniture and masterpieces of modern architecture. Hers is an intense and fascinating story. A story that, 45 years after her death, is worth discovering and remembering.

From craft to modernity
At the age of 24, Eileen Gray moved to Paris to pursue a career in design and escape social and gender conventions. There she joined the city's lesbian scene, leaders of the artistic avant-garde, and opened her own furniture shop under the male pseudonym Jean Désert.
Her work moved between tradition and the avant-garde, craftsmanship and modernity.1 Gray experimented and, through her own identity, resonated with the present. She connected with trends or was ahead of them. While the foundations of modern furniture were being laid in Germany, at the Bauhaus 2 and especially by architects such as Marcel Breuer and Mies van der Rohe3, in parallel and from Paris, Gray was also doing the same with creations that have gone down in the history of product design, such as the Ajustable table, the Bibendum armchair and the Non-conformist chair.4
Architecture from the inside5
In this context, some women were starting to carve out a niche for themselves in design and architecture.6 Eileen Gray, Charlotte Perriand7, Lilly Reich. But it was not an easy path.8 The mighty architect did what was important. The building, the facade, the structure. That is, the robust, enduring and visible part of architecture. At most, they left the small scale, interior design and decoration to the women. The domestic and ephemeral space.
Indeed, interior design was the unfinished business of Le Corbusier's incipient modern architecture style. Eileen Gray criticised this omission: 'External architecture seems to have absorbed avant-garde architects at the expense of the interior. As if a house should be conceived for the pleasure of the eye more than for the well-being of its inhabitants.' She believed that the weakness of rationalist architecture stemmed from its lack of sensuality and empathy, as everything was dominated by reason: "A house is not a machine to live in. It is the shell of man, his extension, his release, his spiritual emanation."9
Thus, the Irishwoman decided to take matters into her own hands. In 1926 she created her first architectural work, the house E-1027, for herself and her partner Jean Badovici. She started her architectural project from the inside. From within. From life itself. From the soul and out. She designed absolutely everything, down to the last detail (space, texture, light, colour, furniture, carpets, graphism), creating a functional, sensual, dynamic, flexible and consistent project. She merged the scales until it was no longer possible to differentiate between furniture and building; between decoration and architecture. For the first time, modernity reached the interior. Moving from the machine to live in to the inhabited piece of furniture, with instinct and sensitivity.
A new way of living
Eileen Gray invites us on a journey10. Towards the liberation and sensuality of a home. Towards a new way of living, away from the standardised structure and nuclear family. In her work, movement is everywhere. Spaces are flexible and loosely defined; furniture adapts and transforms to suit its inhabitants. The building is open to interpretation, it is not confined to normative restrictions. It is a non-conformist, performative house from a queer perspective11. Or, in her own words, a living organism.
Gray sought the sensory and bodily experience that comes from inhabited spaces. She wanted to create homes that stimulated the senses and the movements of the body. Juhani Pallasmaa also argues for this in his book Una arquitectura de la humildad12. The Finnish architect reminds us of the multisensory essence of architecture and the importance of spatial experience to encourage participation. As well as "the hidden haptic sensuality and eroticism of space, materials and details, colours and light, that are experienced as more pleasurable and seductive."
This is the architecture of Eileen Gray. An architecture that is humble and yet full of luxurious details, sensations and evocations. In Pallasmaa's words, an architecture that tries to accommodate, rather than impress; to evoke the intimate sensations of domesticity and comfort. That understands cultural and social contexts, foresees the evolution of buildings over time and proves the power of empathy and imagination.
Le Corbusier's obsession
Due to all that, the E-1027 house is today considered a masterpiece of modern architecture. Le Corbusier was aware of this from the very beginning. That is why it sparked admiration and envy in him, to the point of becoming an obsession. In fact, the architect built his famous Cabanon 13 a few metres away from the E-1027 house and, as a display of power and domination, he painted eight huge murals on the walls of the house, without Eileen Gray's permission and against her wishes.14 Moreover, when the creator of the Unité d'Habitation published the murals in his complete works or magazines, he did not mention Eileen Gray as the author of the house. Thus making her invisible and erasing her from history. This is why, for decades, E-1027 was popularly attributed to Le Corbusier.15
The paradox is that the house would eventually be saved thanks to the murals. Now, restored with all the original furniture and elements, it is possible to visit the house and thus experience within these walls the fruitful work and exciting life of a woman who created her own path, never stopping, never compromising. And that, in a way, carved the path for everyone and changed the history of design.


This whole set of resources offers us a much more complex and exhaustive overview.


Recurso CD
Eileen Gray
Invitación al viaje
Recurso CD
Recurso CD
La arquitectura desde el interior, 1925-1937
Lilly Reich y Charlotte Perriand
Recurso CD
Domesticidad y poder
Eileen Gray y E.1027
Recurso CD
C. Tangana MIENTE
La casa Corbusier era de la ARQUITECTA E. Gray
Recurso CD
Recurso CD
La pequeña escala como campo de experimentación en la modernidad: Breuer, Mies y Stam

Eileen Gray, pionera de la arquitectura moderna y referente homosexual.

El País, Anatxu Zabalbeascoa

Read article

Maison en bord de mer: un análisis queer de E-1027 de Eileen Gray.

Katarina Bonnevier

Ver revista

Eileen Gray: una casa bajo el sol.

Charlotte Malterre-Barthes, Zosia Dzierżawska

Ver publicación

Mujeres y arquitectura: asimetrías históricas.

Blog Fundación Arquia. Lucía C. Pérez-Moreno

Leer artículo
Núria Moliner (Barcelona, 1991) is an architect, researcher, communicator and musician. She focuses on the dissemination of architectural culture and research on social and environmental ethics in architecture, urbanism and design. She is currently the host, content advisor and scriptwriter for Escala Humana, TVE's architectural documentary series, which won an award at the Spanish Biennial of Architecture and Urbanism. She is also a regular guest on TVE Catalunya's culture show Punts de vista, a member of the advisory board of the Barcelona Superblock plan and curator of the new Architecture Now series for the Roca Barcelona Gallery. She has recently curated the Barcelona Biennial of Thought and has directed the documentary Punto de inflexión. She has worked for organisations such as Fundació Mies van der Rohe, Instituto de Cultura de Barcelona, FAD, Storefront for Art and Architecture NYC, URBANBATfest, Intermediae Matadero Madrid, the Arquia Foundation and CoNCA. She participates as a curator, host and speaker at festivals, congresses and cultural events, communicates in audiovisual media and writes articles for press and publications.