Visiting La Maison de Verre

During my most recent trip to Paris, I returned to visit after almost a decade the La Maison de Verre. Bathed in sunlight during the day, the ‘House of Glass’ is a stunning example of a landmark 20th century piece of architecture.

Throughout my initial visit as a 1st year student, I was more focused on the materials and the C.I.A.M.’s (Congres Internationaux d’Architecture Moderne) Existenzminimum conditions and harmony of the four great human functions: live, work, circulate and revel. These explored geometrical and functional lines, combining innovative materials and how these conditions have influenced Pierre Chareau’s work. However this time I realised that this building has a fourth cinematographic dimension: time.

Time could not be experienced by observing drawings or images unless someone experiences it.  This is referring to another fundamental item of the building: the machinery / moving partitions. The retractable stairs to the master bedroom is one of the key movable pieces of furniture in the house. Chareau has detailed all major interior furniture to pivot when in use, such as the storage units and cupboards in the bathroom and bedrooms. As a result the visitor or inhabitant becomes an actor that can change the stage/set design depending on the use they wish to make of the room or space.

Time differentiates Chareau’s work from main-line cubism, it is a cinematic image of successive sets of movement as opposed to the cubists’ various viewpoints of an element into a single solid piece of immobile work. It is also empowered by the use of external light. The projectors on both facades create an atmosphere similar to a theatre giving the feeling of a Jean Luc Godard film set.

 

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