Monday, December 10, 2012

Design Influences

Eileen Gray was born in a period of political changes. It was a period full of contradictions and uprise. These circumstances created an environment of changes and innovations in the artistic and design world as well. Eileen's career was influenced by a number of factors, including those she worked with, those she learned from, and the movements of the artistic world around her. Being a very intelligent and observant woman, Eileen looked into the past for inspiration as well as the present.

Eileen was influenced by the styles of different places of the world. Greece and Japan were two big ones, as she studied Lacquer in the Japanese style, and often used materials she imported from Japan. Great architects at the time, such as Adolf Loos, and Le Corbusier also influenced her style.

Eileen first visited Paris with her mother in 1900. In 1901, the Societé Nationale des Artists Décorateurs formed with one aim in mind - to free its artistic members from the exhibitions of the painting world, and to widen artists' horizons in terms of the kinds of work they did. In 1906, the Societé showed a collection of works in an annual exhibition, to which Eileen became a regular visitor. With this, she developed a keen interest in the decorative arts.

In 1907, a group of architects formed Deutscher Werkbund in Berlin, and in 1910, they had a Paris exhibition. The exhibition contained a lot of well made furniture with simple use of wood. Eileen admired this and the style of it was sure to affect her own furniture designs.

In Eileen's earlier work, she took inspiration from the Vienna school. She looked at many paintings of Gustav Klimt, and took to the architecture of Otto Wagner. The concepts of Antonio Gaudi of Barcelona and Henry de Velde of Belgium influenced her, as these architects saw architecture and furniture design as two parts to a whole and as something that simultaneously impacted space.

Eileen lived through movements of art, and one that affected her during her early career was Art Nouveau. Eileen appreciated the honesty and liberating forces in the style of Art Nouveau, but she always found that it was excessive in its forms and designs. She found herself wanting to work with simpler lines that related to the Arts and Crafts movement of her own native country. She valued the Russian constructivism and De Stijl movements, which was very different from Art Nouveau.

During her friendship with Badovici, Eileen kept in touch with Le Corbusier. Badovici published many of Corbu's works. Through this, she had all of the plans to Le Corbusier's projects. Being able to see the plans to projects such as Ville d'Avray, Villa Savoye, La Roche, Villa in Gardiens, and more, Eileen was influenced by his organization and concepts. She had always read his writing, and in 1923, when Vers Une Architecture was published, Eileen admired his high sense of moral principles. However, she, unlike him, wanted to have humanity and compassion in her projects, as to him, designs and houses were only a machine.

"The engineer's art is not enough unless it is guarded by human needs. A house is not a machine to live in. It is the shell of a man, his extension, his release, his spiritual emanation. Not only its visual harmony, but its organization as a whole, the whole work combined together, make it human in the most profound sense." -Eileen Gray 

 However, Le Corbusier had effected her in the sense that his influence had helped her make a decision on finding her own style. She was able to decide that architecture needed a distinct, but practical statement. She had found the purpose of architecture that encapsulated her character.

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