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Le Maison de Verre (1928-1932) by Pierre Chareau, located in Paris, France. The Dalsace family home, known throughout the world as the “House of Glass,” La Maison de Verre, was built between 1928 and 1932. Widely regarded as a 20th-century masterpiece, it does not abide by any of the accepted standards of architecture, engineering, interior decoration or product design. Rather, it is more like an uber-design, an example of architectural haute couture, if you will.
The architect Pierre Chareau (1883-1950 ) devoted four years of his life to planning the house, and his attention to detail is evident in every corner. There is not a single item that has not been planned using the latest technologies available and taking into account the meticulously ordered way of life of the Parisian bourgeoisie. Goethe wrote that architecture is “frozen music”; in the case of the House of Glass, it is a symphony in machinery. The myth surrounding the house was created over many years thanks to (or because of ) its inaccessibility to the public. Apart from a few fortunate architects and scholars, and the women who were patients of Dr. Dalsace’s gynecological clinic, no one entered. After the death of the owners, in the 1970s, the building served as a kind of guest house for close friends of their daughter, Aline.
The current owner of La Maison de Verre is the American businessman and collector Robert Rubin, who bought it from the Dalsace family about five years ago and is busy restoring it. He recruited a team of architects, historians, and engineers to reactivate the delicate mechanical systems installed throughout the house. “I fell in love with the architectural genius of the house at first sight,” he relates. “I fell in love with the astonishing play of light and with the lucid mechanical feeling that emanates from the building.” As an inveterate lover of architecture, Rubin knew the house well from the professional literature. The idea of buying it came up in a conversation he had with Prof. Kenneth Frampton, a historian of architecture from Columbia University, who had supervised his doctoral thesis. Rubin will not say how much he paid, but cautious estimates put the figure at many millions of dollars, and a few more million is being invested to fully restore it.
Last month, on a fine spring day, Rubin conducted a special tour of the house for six architectural reviewers and journalists. Our guide was Mary Vaughn Johnson, an American historian from Columbia University who is currently working on her doctoral thesis, devoted to the house’s sanitation systems. It may sound esoteric, but she says that each of the 12 bathroom systems in the House of Glass represents a different aspect of modern technology and social proprieties.
Aesthetically and Geographically Related Projects:
- C.J. House (2013) by Andrade Morettin Arquitetos Associados
- S Gallery & Residence by Shinichi Ogawa & Associates
- Hurst House (2012) by John Pardey Architects + Ström Architects
- House in Laax (2016) by Valerio Olgiati
- Villa Kogelhof (2013) by Paul de Ruiter Architects