#Eileen_Gray (1878-1976) | Thinkpiece | Architectural Review
Rent boys, drugs, voyeurism and murder: the story of Eileen Gray’s villa E.1027 reads more like an airport thriller than architectural history. Its chequered past had left the structure close to ruin, but after decades of neglect it opened to the public last year. Since then, two films have been released celebrating Gray’s life. Why has this extremely shy and not especially prolific designer achieved such belated prominence?
Built as a lovers’ retreat for Gray and her partner Jean Badovici in 1929, E.1027’s dehumanised name is an encrypted combination of the pair’s initials: E for Eileen, 10 for Jean (J is the 10th letter of the alphabet), 2 for B(adovici) and 7 for G(ray). Paradoxically, the laconic name speaks volumes about Gray’s secretive character. She was born to an aristocratic Irish family in 1878, studied art at the Slade, and moved to Paris in 1902. There she socialised with celebrity lesbians and had a lover named Damia, a famous chanteuse known for walking a panther on a leash. Her discretion regarding these entanglements was intense, and she later destroyed much of her personal correspondence.