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Hannah Thiessen on A Queer Analysis of Eileen Gray’s E. 1027
3 October, 2023
Katarina Bonnevier believes that the house, E. 1027, by Eileen Gray “hides and reveals simultaneously”. Gray’s first built home blurs spatial programmes, without discarding their remains. The building hides the ongoings inside, with an entrance from above and a private terrace at its depth. Bonnevier explains that while that the layout protects its visitors, it simultaneously exclaims their freedom within, encouraging play, pleasure, and rest in shared spaces. Interwoven textiles, repeated finishes, and integrated furniture notate a lack of expectation for the interior’s use, but a central day-bed in the boudoir sets a stage for people to define the space through intimate acts.
Bonnevier describes the project’s reliance on a “player/actor” to engage with sliding walls and screens, to flip windows and fold tables to their liking. The agency to transform space is compared in the analysis to a possibility of an alternate sociality, the building asking you to deviate in order for it come alive as “un organisme vivant”. Suggesting that these instances of architectural queerness (the bending of heteronormative spatial expectations) are dependant on the user’s participation affirms the contemporary role expected of many LGBTQ+ people as accepted, even celebrated, within prescribed constraints. Conventional building practices always include an allowance, expecting the deviancy of land to move built elements within calculated amounts. The project’s performative allowances of deviation spatialize the limitations of queer experience in relation to a female architects’ pressure to operate in a white male dominated industry. Gray uses heteronormative conventions as means to deflect, carving moments of difference into a space predetermined to comply.
The interest in melding together interior with exterior, decorative with tectonic, aligns with Gray’s care for the building’s totality. Gray stated, “The thing constructed has greater importance than the way one has constructed it” and “the architecture itself should be its own decoration”. By integrating “decorative” elements like furniture and textiles with the structural materials, Gray names them as architectural, implicating their importance. Another way to deviate from heteronormative conventions may not have relied on structural components to qualify the legitimacy of their non-structural counterparts. While Gray may have felt that ornaments fixed to the room communicate essentiality, it may also express the limitations of architecture to enact social change while the profession is funded, shaped and analyzed to reinforce heteronormative superiority. Bonnevier commends E.1027 for its opposition of “a simplistic architecture of opposites”, which is a statement I would attribute to the project’s incapacity to revolt in entirety, utilizing modernist protocol to project freedom without ensuring it.