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Crowdfund plea for modernist home of trailblazing female designer

9 November 2018

E-1027 in the south of France, a classic example of modernist architecture (Image: Manuel Bougot)

Rebecca Thompson FCIOB, CIOB past president, has leant her support to a unique project – the preservation of a modernist building in France.

Known as Building E-1027,  a villa in the town of Roquebrune-Cap-Martin is part of a complex of modernist buildings and sits just below Le Corbusier’s Cabanon, awarded world heritage status by UNESCO.

The villa and its contents were designed and built by Irish architect, Eileen Gray, who built a reputation in France in the early 1900s as an avant-garde and inventive designer.

In 2014, the Association Cap Moderne (also known as Cap Moderne) was set up in order to protect, preserve and restore the site of E-1027. Long after Gray moved out, the villa fell into disarray. It was rescued by the Conservatoire du Littoral in 1999.

Eileen Gray: former home seeks funding

The conservation plan is part of a global project to create a centre of learning at Cap Moderne and open the site to the public, including the adjacent Le Corbusier buildings, and making it accessible for disabled visitors.

As it encompasses such unique examples of modern architecture, the site will also serve as an international laboratory campus of living architecture, welcoming scientific, technical and artistic communities from all over the world.

As part of the fundraising strategy, Cap Moderne launched a crowdfunding campaign and aims to raise £50,000 (€55,000) to be match funded by the French government.

Although all the essential structural work of E-1027 has now been completed, there is still some work to be done regarding the reinforced concrete, which suffers from conservation problems resulting from its location on a steep Mediterranean seaside site.

Previous studies and analysis have already revealed that there was an advanced degree of degradation of the concrete’s composition due to the carbon steel corrosion.

The hope is trial a method called cathodic protection, whereby a small externally generated current is applied to the steel. Where the concrete has been excessively damaged by the steel corrosion, the structure is to be purged to reintroduce a healthy and sustainable material.

Image: Manuel Bougot

“Our international heritage comes in many forms, the best sites have a great story about the people behind the design and use,” says Rebecca Thompson. “It is important to preserve this exceptional architecture and enable access for everyone.  It is an opportunity to share the skills of heritage professionals across the globe. I hope it will capture the imagination of the next generation to be as daring, courageous and innovative as Eileen Gray.”

Gray’s achievements have never been more relevant, both in her designs and her passion for living. Androgynous, bisexual and entrepreneurial, she lived an extraordinary life. As it stands, few people outside the architecture and design world know who she is: a woman who was bashing down gender barriers before women even got the vote.

To make a donation towards the restoration of the building, visit Cap Moderne’s crowdfunding page: www.indiegogo.com/projects/irish-female-bisexual-genius.

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