Friday, September 30, 2011

Maison de Verre by Pierre Chareau

As I said in my last post, there was a cancellation on the Maison de Verre tour so I got to tag along and see this beautiful building. They limit tours to architects and students of the profession (from what they say) and they only offer the tour once a week, so it was a great pleasure to get inside while I was in Paris. Photographs were limited to the exterior, as it is still a private residence. An American collector, Robert Rubin, recently bought the property and is currently restoring and updating it before he moves in with his family (click here for new york times article).

Touring the inside was really enjoyable. The attention to detail and the relationship between architecture and human behavior was really interesting. The house served three major functions, so the overlap between all three received a lot of specific attention. The other thing that really stood out was the handcrafted labor associated with such industrial materials. Much of the technology and materials used by Chareau and his team were produced for factories, trains and air planes, so to use them in a residential application took an enormous amount of coordination as well as understanding in how to put them all together delicately. From curved windows and metal doors to the 'floating' stairs leading to the grand salon, there was a palpable relationship between material, human being and their respective functions in the house on a given day.

The other thing I found interesting was the term "ensemblier" used by our tour guide. She said it was a new profession in France at the time of the Maison de Verre's construction, and the head architect, Pierre Chareau, used it to describe his role (hence the other four names below his on the plaque in the front of the house). It means to assemble a team of experts in order to create a harmonious ensemble, usually used in interior architecture and decorating. I feel that is not far from what good architects do today, in that often times they are the liaison between several parties interested in the same final goal; a beautiful, well functioning space.

I wish I could do justice to the house without photos, but I'll just have to say if you are in Paris, do the tour! Email this person to arrange it:

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