-To rehearse the archives of E1027 and Villa Müller

By Emelie Carlén

This project aims at bringing forth new perspectives on what has been written about Eileen Gray as a historical figure in modernist architecture, analysing the archives of this history through the methodology of rehearsal. My research on Eileen Gray's past has made use of the archive of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, looking at her documents, sketches and drawings. I have come to a point of view where I see the house as an archive in itself, a living archive that is in a 'constant state of renewal' through restorations (some contestable). Gray's house E1027 was almost forgotten and in a very bad state when in 1999 it was bought by the Ministry of Culture of France to be restored to its original state. To capture a house as close as possible to its original state, to come close to the 'true core' of a house, seems to be the principle behind such restoration work. The act of restoration can be expressed as a wish and attempt to reverse time, to form an ongoing loop that continuously goes back to a past time. In the case of E1027 this also includes the painted additions by Le Corbusier.

There are three ghosts presented here, Eileen Gray, Adolf Loos and Le Corbusier. Eileen Gray, born 1878, was an Irish architect and designer who built the house E1027. Adolf Loos, born 1870, was an Austrian architect who built Villa Müller as one of his last houses. Gray and Loos' practices were conducted far away from each other, but some architectural elements (such as their mutual usage of the floor plan as an organising principle) allow connections to be made in the archives devoted to them even if their ghosts never seem to cross paths. The other haunting presence, the ghost of Le Corbusier, born 1887 in Switzerland, was an architect and friend of Gray. E1027 is known above all through the many myths and tales that have grown around it. In 1929 Eileen Gray completed the house, built for her partner Jean Badovici, and named it E1027. E for Eileen, 10 for the letter J, 2 for B and 7 for G = Eileen Jean Badovici Gray. Its name carries all the clues there are to reveal the heritage, or lineage, of the house, but even so this heritage was little-known for many years. The reason was that over the years Eileen had been largely forgotten as the architect behind the house, primarily because one summer, in 1938, she lent the house to Le Corbusier. Without her consent he marked his territory by painting nine murals inside of E1027 and later built a line of huts overlooking 'her' house. Because the murals were made without her consent, they represent an act that came to mark him forever in the historical writings about and restorations of Gray's house. The paintings have been restored and cared for as part of the house itself, despite not being a part of Gray's design.* Her legacy will always be overshadowed by his act; this is why Eileen Gray can never escape the haunting ghost of Le Corbusier.



Eileen Gray


Adolf Loos


Le Corbusier




Villa Müller


Albertina Museum


Victora and Albert Museum


Wienbibliothek im Rathaus


The City of Prague Museum


A case, or an act, or a study of an invisible play that once took place: a house as a script, as an archive and an empty stage where interiors become scenery, furniture becomes props, and its visitors actors on a stage. A scenography where the blueprint is its base, containing the evidence for how to unknot and 'restore' the clues. To apply a theatrical methodology onto research is a way of building characters and placing them on a stage, creating a room where the research unfolds. Drawing lines and linking knowledge, moving from one field of research and from one country to the next. The scene has two sets, three characters to keep in line. From archival findings an inventory was made of which histories have been told and which ones lie concealed. I flipped the course and changed the positions of the characters from the historical tales, Eileen Gray's house becoming the main stage and she the new lead of the play.

In this exposition I use a layout of 'index cards' to serve as a maze that forms an archive of my process and research. There is no definite direction to follow when reading through the text. Segments from the script of the video appears in-between the index cards. Symbols within the text are used to refer to timecodes ( * ) and footnotes ( † ) respectivley. The reader should hover over these with the cursor.


Different houses come with different presumptions. What it is for and why it was built. Maybe out of a need, a longing, or just a brick in the play for social democracy. Some houses are left with poisonings in the walls, some create it during time, some attract spiders, some don't. Some vanish, some get to stay protected forever.*



The ghost


The ghost


The ghost


The stage


The stage

Rehearsal room

Rehearsal room

Rehearsal room

Rehearsal room

These houses do not work as museums where visitors can stroll around by themselves, they must take a strict tour with a guide showing them around. I was granted access to film when no one else was there. In E1027 I sneaked around in the one hour between every guided tour. For several days I covered every part, every inch of the two floors. The house is taken care of by a man called Stephan, he has a daily routine for keeping the house in a good state. He showed me parts of the building where no tours are allowed, parts of the house where the restorers had not yet reached. E1027 contains a lot of small details that are hard to discover from pictures found in books; small gaps in walls giving a sense of a playful hide and seek. To actually move around in the house, to experience it at site level, is important to how I see the house as an archive in itself. In the archive of the Victoria and Albert Museum, initial sketches, drawings and blueprints by Eileen Gray can be found. These represent designs for prints and furniture, proposals for houses and documentation of those that have been built (for example Gray's proposal for an art gallery from 1930 – 1939, a child care centre from 1940 – 1949, a four storey villa in 1930 and many more). It is in the sketches that one can follow a line of ideas, from possible variations in different designs, to sketches for public buildings that were never realized: fragments that later can be seen manifested in the house.*

All materials (documents, drawings, sketches, letters, historical writings) that have been used in this research have been treated as a possible new reading; an archival finding, a physical feeling from being in a house, a coincidence or something going wrong. I use the methodology of the rehearsal to open up an investigation into seeing the house as a non-fixed space, beyond how it has been preserved or restored to one defined state. I map the method of rehearsal onto archival research; use the archive as a site of rehearsal where I do not see the archive as a site of a passive deposition, but rather look at the archive as being something in constant repetition of itself. The archive aspires to a state of a fixed conditions, every requested item is weighed and is handled with the greatest of care. The archivist guards every move you make, one gram more or less and you are looked at with suspicion. The archive proposes a set of routines, from how to get access to it in the first place to how to behave when there. Its material will always stay the same, at least in theory, what differs is who will direct the content and in what way. To rehearse in this space is to propose a set of outcomes that can provide new readings and new knowledge about what might have been overlooked. Material can be re-used in new readings, given alternatives endings, a rotation can occur within the set: a change of scene.

For many years I have been a little bit obsessed with Eileen Gray. In 2017 I was granted access to visit her house E1027 in the south of France. I returned home with loads of footage so precious to me that I did not know how to proceed. Two years later I decided to follow the traces of Adolf Loos, to try to link him with Eileen Gray, something I had wanted to make happen earlier but never found the right way to do. It was never clear; I had found no evidence of their paths crossing. To apply the notion of rehearsal to my research I wanted to search for possible readings where answers did not necessarily have to be revealed, but could be practised and tested; repeated. Instead of seeking conclusions I was interested in finding out what, despite Gray and Loos' differences as architects, made them cohere in my mind: what made me, as an artist, wish to place them side by side. In 2019 I went to Vienna to visit the archive of the Albertina Museum and Wienbibliothek im Rathaus and a few days later continued on to Prague where Villa Müller can be found. My aim in this exposition is to give a possible reading of what the archives contain, what clues can be found that could provide new knowledge about the relationship between the figures of Eileen Gray and Adolf Loos.

In archives histories are left to be found, this is where traces hide, a narrative making you question what has been re-told in current times. The relation between the archive and the house is much alike, but here the clues are polished, dust free and clean, an invisible hand that is labouring the unseen.*



Gossip travels in infinity. But in some cases, an event disrupts its spin, aims and shoots it dead, sets an end to what it grown to be.*





In the Haunted Houses video the voice-over leads the narrative, with the camera taking the role of the visitor's gaze, traveling through the house as if for the first time. The voice take on the role of the researcher, the one that searches through the archives, looking for leads. It is the final rehearsal where all pieces in the script have found their form, repeating their words one last time. The video becomes a stage carrying the discourse, with this exposition serving to unfold my processes that inform and underpin it. The meaning of 'rehearsal' I am working with emerges from Putting Rehearsals to the Test by Sabeth Buchmann, Constanze Ruhm and Ilse Laufer, and Augusto Boal's book Theater of the Oppressed. If nothing is fixed, everything can be re-arranged. Nothing is anchored in predetermined beliefs. Stemming from theatrical concepts, the notion of rehearsal introduces a way of working with subject positions and hierarchies by questioning what is already fixed. I do this by comparing two architects that have not been placed next to each-other in architectural writings, pointing at those facts that bind them together, and in doing so give an alternative reading of their past – both in film and photographs, and in this exposition. To apply rehearsal and use it as a tool for critique: rehearsal tries out what is 'set', and proposes a new reading, a shift in gaze of the rehearser.

Rehearsal as a method lies closely to the usage of performativity as a mode of research. This is described by Barbara Bolt as “research characterized by a productive performativity where art is both productive in its own right as well as being data that could be analyzed using qualitative and aesthetic modes.”.This exposition presents both process and research, where the film and the photographic negatives serve as the mediums which analyse the 'data' this exposition presents. The theoretical writings by Beatriz Colomina stand in close relationship to performativity studies, especially where she has written about the built-in gender differences in modernist architecture. She also proposes performative analyses when she writes about the link between architecture and theatre in Adolf Loos' houses, seeing the house as a scene in which the act of theatre takes place: “there is a theater box inside the house, overlooking the internal spaces. The inhabitants of Loos' houses are both actors in and spectators of the family scene – involved in, yet detached from, their own space.” This is a result of how Loos uses the Raumplan, how he works with the floor-plan. Everyone can be seen from hidden angles and glimpses between the rooms.In the film I visit and explore the houses, building my own bodily understanding, using all the senses to understand how the house was built to be experienced. As I move with the camera in the house I gather footage, discovering architectural details that I never came across in written texts: how, for instance, the gaze travels through small mirrors and gaps between the walls.* Whatever decisions are made at that time, I rehearse while not knowing what to find, and in doing so create a reading of the house as I walk through.

In Villa Müller I arrived on the day of the week where the house was closed for its guided tours. But the house was in full movement nonetheless, different people working on things that had to be cleaned or restored. One man cleaned the two aquariums in the living room, a women was there with her son polishing every glass in the glass vitrine. It was as if the house was in a state of rehearsal of itself; being prepared to perform the role of a living house. The labour performed by an otherwise invisible hand. Adolf Loos burned most of his sketches and drawings so when visiting the archives of the Albertina Museum, Wienbibliothek im Rathaus and The City of Prague Museum there is only the finished drawings, some letters, receipts and writings left to be seen.To get a deeper understanding of the house, to go beyond its measurements and fine lines, the house has to be visited at its actual site. When I first entered inside the house I understood what is meant by the idea of the Raumplan; Loos way of using several levels of the house, creating a labyrinthine corridor leading to the main salon, making it hard to get a clear overview of the house.*

I have chosen to focus this exposition on Eileen Gray and what kind of historical threads she could possibly have with Adolf Loos. I follow these threads between their respective archives. Usually when reading about Gray, however, Le Corbusier's is a name that appears very often. Because this exposition, and the wider project it reflects, is focussed on recentring Gray and her work his mark on her is something I try to avoid. Nonetheless, he is inevitably tied to this past, even if I choose to think of him as a footnote to Gray's story and not the other way around. His friendship with Eileen Gray and Jean Badovici is what makes him present when describing E1027. As a friend he borrowed the house and later built his own shed and a line of huts in the garden above it. He spent a lot of time at this place, working and making drawings, including sketches that later came to be the murals painted inside of E1027. These were made from studies he made while traveling in Algeria; fetishised drawings of women. One mural stood out among the rest, which he had named Graffite à Cap-Martin. According to Le Corbusier this painting depicted Gray, Badovici and their unborn child; a very condemnatory depiction of their life, painted in her house without her consent.These facts established, I will return to Gray and her work.

A house as a set, as an archive in itself where a constant rehearsal takes place, restoring it as it once was claimed *



The house can be seen as a remnant for how society has been structured around the body living in it, in which “ideas about health, the prevention of contagious diseases, and the cultivation of personal and social hygiene were applied in an authoritarian manner as measures of social control”, where society controlled its citizens' movements and usage of space. Modern architecture, according to Paul Overy, had a strong belief in the house as a mirroring of the body and vice versa. A healthy life in a healthy house. Sanatoriums used for treating tuberculosis patients marked the start of the modernist architectural era, they became the symbol for where the health of the body and the health of society was merged within the house. Light and air, functionalist interiors and white, dust-free surfaces found in the sanatoriums replaced the wooden furniture and thick textiles that occupied earlier interiors in private households.With modernist architecture in private and social housing came a wish to symbolise a clean-living that was seen as a more progressive option as opposed to traditional forms of building. A modern person in a modern house, mirroring current times. This is very present in E1027 which prioritises a great amount of light and air in its open structure. Adolf Loos' villas have a modernist aesthetic from the outside with white cladding, but have more of a traditional aesthetic in terms of the furniture he used for the inside, where the idea of handicraft was of importance.Eileen Gray, on the other hand, furnished her house with designs she made especially for the house: where sofas, chairs and rugs played an equally important part in establishing the 'wholeness' of the house.

An important question for me has been about the hierarchy of the built environment; for whom was the modernist idea of a new architecture built, and how has its history been written and re-told? This project is a re-reading of historical facts. A suggestion of a new narrative, an archival rehearsal that follows traces and reveals lost tracks. E1027 and Villa Müller were built between 1926-1929 and 1928-1930 respectively. One is located on the south coast of France, across from Monte Carlo, the other on a hill in Prague. Even though they differ in many ways, almost functioning as the other's opposite where Villa Müller is turned inwards while E1027 expands out, they conjoin in how they work with the floor plan to increase the experience of a house. They both worked with a performative mode of how architecture can be experienced, how the floor plan and the interior of a room influences a bodily experience. This is what Loos called the Raumplan: “the drawing cannot convey the sensation of space, as it involves not only sight but also the other physical senses. Loos devised the Raumplan as a means of conceptualizing space as it is felt.”

Gray and Loos had different ideas about who a house was built for, and how it should be inhabited. Gray used the main bedroom as the core of the house and in doing so broke with the norm of the common floor plan at that time. It is a queer architecture, as the theorist Katarina Bonnevier claims in her book Behind Straight Curtains; the idea of a house that was not built for a typical family structure, but instead challenged the very core of this structure. Loos' idea was that what was of importance is happening within the house, not outside of it. Unlike Gray's approach of having the most intimate room as the core of the house, Loos places 'Das Zimmer der Dame', the women's room, hidden away at the end of the labyrinth. Loos distinguishes between the inside and the outside of a house, for him the exterior should resemble an official male suit, a mask for the public, while the interior is the place for sexuality and reproduction, a gendered, pre-inscribed order in the house.*

Eileen Gray's house E1027 has almost become a myth of its own. For long it was thought that it was built by Le Corbusier, because he without her consent marked his territory by painting nine murals inside and built a line of huts overlooking her house. Now historical writings group them together, him as her inspired one.*

It is hard to tell what is the truth, what has been narrated over time and what has been left to dust in archives. The house carries a lot of tales, like the one on how it curses some owners to deadly fates.*

A photograph consists of traceable visual codes. Its meaning is revealed in what it will come to represent, what context will be placed around it. The photograph imitates its surroundings, creates a ghost that comes alive. For Roland Barthes the image captured by the camera, in that very moment, becomes the image of a ghost. Photography as a “primitive theater, a kind of Tableau Vivant, a figuration of the motionless and made-up face beneath which we see the dead." It will always represent the moment which has passed. Adolf Loos had a strict belief that architecture cannot be photographed since a camera could never capture it in the same way as it is experienced physically.Its depth and perspective has its limits. It give a sense of an atmosphere, but it can never fully re-create a building's three dimensionality.



E1027 is filled with and built for movements, it is what Gray called Un organism vivant, A person can set the house in motion. No motor powers this living machine – a player/actor is required. The architecture prescribes a behaviour where the body is engaged with the building elements in which there is an interrelation between the built matter and the active subject. A similar idea is expressed by Le Corbusier where he sees the house as a machine to live in, where the body of its inhabitant become a surrogate for a machine in the industrial age. Eileen Gray's house invites its inhabitants into a maze of rounded corners, foldable screens serving as a wall, reversing the inside with the outside, a break with built binaries. You move not knowing what comes next.* At every turn something new appears. You could be watched through the window above your head, or seen through the hidden mirror to your left. A gaze can follow your steps almost wherever you go: A strip of mirror in the corner of the screen and the other wall increase the confusion, as the reflection produces the illusion of looking beyond the wall (…) Attention is thus attracted to what might lurk behind. The one who wants to see will see. E1027 and Villa Müller dissolve the traditional idea of the floor plan, creating stages where scenes can take place, where actors perform, narratives unfold. A drama created by the inhabitants themselves.

The idea of the gaze is an important notion in the two pieces of work I am presenting. They are concerned with the gaze in different ways; the built-in gaze from within the house with its spectators and actors on a stage, the gaze of the camera, the gaze traveling out and through the window, and finally the gendered gaze. When driving a car one's gaze is set far away, straight on the road. When moving in a house the gaze is always one step ahead, but in these houses the gaze curves, not knowing what to expect next. It travels through peek holes, glimpsing in to the next room; a play with the levelling of the floors and the order of the rooms. Each house creates a stage for its inhabitant to take on a role.

As well as machines for living, Le Corbusier compared his houses to viewing machines, a montage of spectatorial movements.The house is a system that takes pictures, and it is the window that depends on the character of the picture” to create an illusion of perspective. The window came, according to Le Corbusier, to function as the eye of the house. In E1027 Eileen Gray used the window as a means of opening up the room, creating a feeling of a prolongation from the outside ocean view, allowing gazes to travel.* A window that imitates its surroundings by blurring out the division between the inside and the outside view. For Loos the usage of windows was simply to provide light. In Villa Müller the inside was kept intact, sofas were placed with their back toward the windows, curtains were pulled together to focus on the internal play of the rooms: “the eye is directed towards the interior, which turns its back on the outside world” a gaze that should be kept within the house itself. An architecture that should be lived as an 'inside', preserved for the private household.

For Loos different rooms were pre-inscribed according to its inhabitants' role, where a distinction was made between the masculine public facade and its feminine private inner parts.*

I use the metaphor of the ghost to explain how some things have come to disappear. The character of the ghost represents the facts we do not have, story lines that have been invented and repeated over time. The ghost become an answer for things we cannot explain. The things we do not know about peoples' past lives can become stories and new facts that will be re-used in the present moment. When digging through material on Adolf Loos in the architectural archive of the Albertina museum in Wien, a model of Eileen Gray's house E1027 suddenly appears, even though the architectural historian showing me around could not tell how Gray and her work ended up there.* When unexpected things happens that do not seem clear, that is when I feel that the voice of the ghost has reappeared.* The fluidity of a metaphoric character offers a voice to speak from, to build a narrative around, and the possibility of rehearsing within the artistic process or when researching in the archives. The ghost itself does not exist, how we come to interpret its former life is solely based on what we want it to be.

My research has been focused on different archives, to see the built and the written archives as a two-sided perspective from which one might get an understanding of the architects. The house is providing a bodily experience; its own way of directing what you see and how you move. Adolf Loos explained that “the drawing cannot convey the sensation of space, as this involves not only sight but also the other physical senses”. I first linked the two houses due to their being built around the same time, and because both seemed to work with the performativity later explained by Beatriz Colomina and Katarina Bonnevier. My initial idea was to put them side by side, two architects whose lives never crossed but between whom retrospective correlations can be found. But when I was visiting the archive of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London one small clue appeared that gave a new understanding on how to read Eileen Gray's architectural ideas. When I search through the archive there was one title that was a surprise to me, which said “Three storey house, after Adolf Loos' Villa Moissi”. Villa Moissi was a model of the house that was on display at the annual Salon d'Automne exhibition in Paris the same year that Gray made this sketch. That marks the beginning of how she started to work with levels of the floor plan in her sketches. The house was never built, which would make the link to Loos impossible to form had this drawing not been found in the archive. The drawing also contained another clue, a detail I had come across before when reading about Loos. Colomina emphasises the theatrical character of Loos' houses when she writes about one particular architectural element, which Loos describes as a theatre box overlooking the interior in the house, an alcove placed over the entrance. This lodge can be found in Loos' Moller House built in Vienna in 1928. Gray's sketch A Three storey house, after Adolf Loos' Villa Moissi is from 1923, in which she uses that exact same alcove placed above the entrance. Villa Moissi was a flat cube, and the alcove she attached in her drawing was unlikely to have been inspired by Loos. What the archives can tell us is that Loos started to use this element much later than Gray, although he never referred back to her, at least from what the archives contain.

An actor that rehearses a scene for the first time performs a cold reading. An improvisation of a content never seen before. A medium that is trying to reveal what ghosts hide in your mind is also performing a cold reading, with the aim of deciphering an image to later become clear. When I visited Loos' house Villa Müller I brought with me my old folding camera, the type of camera popular in the '30s when the house was built. I used it two years earlier when I visited E1027 and I wanted to document Loos house in the same manner. But the three rolls of film I used all came back blank, empty sepia coloured squares with no traces on their surfaces. No shadows, no change of light, blank frames one after another. This camera had never failed me before. The material was mirrored back on itself; almost as if Loos' belief that architecture should not or could not be photographed had imposed itself on the work. Without a trace there are no signals to describe, no image to become clear. The only thing left is a script without content. What to read from its blank squares is not to be seen, an image that hides, a ghost that slipped away. Due to the absence of a picture I believed I was to receive after developing the photographs, I have used the 'images' as evidence in themselves. To read this content, to improvise with the aim of deciphering its image, is to do a cold reading for the first time.

These houses are haunted, but not in the same way. They were built for someone else, their original purpose is still there to be seen, but we enhance them through a narrated mystery. Fiction takes over when there is nothing more to be said. Like a choir we will be miming in the back when the ghosts conduct the narration of this play.*



I wanted to put forth an exposition that resembles the different paths my research has taken, by creating a set of index cards mapping out a maze of reflections. There is no linear order to how the exposition should be read, I see it more as a way to apply the methodology of rehearsal in how the research has been made and how it now will be read. The two projects that I present here are the remainders of their own rehearsal processes after several different edits of the film with different scripts and voices reading its lines have been made. In the video I use two voices; the voice of the guide is used as an entry into the video, from where the narrative takes off, and the voice of the narrator (myself) guiding the viewer through historical events. I'm still not sure if it is my aim to try to set an end-point to a four year long project, with a great amount of research and information behind it. I see these two projects as two versions that originate from the research I present here, but as the methodology states, the archive is just a pool of information that should be rehearsed with no definitive end.

My aim has been to unfold another story where I bind together Eileen Gray and Adolf Loos, not granting Le Corbusier the presence that he usually gets when Gray is spoken of. By creating new relations between two architects who are not usually put side by side I am restoring fragments of history that are only to be found in the archives. Gray is present by what she left behind, what she built and designed, sketches and documents, and by secondary information about her life, and by the ways her biography is 'haunted'. Even if her own voice is absent as a ghost, I try to bind a story together where her legacy is speaking for her, with myself constructing it on her behalf.

When digging through the material of hundreds of models carefully placed in plexiglass, suddenly one carbon box appears. It stands out on the shelf with large words written on it: "Totenmaske Loos”. No one could tell what it was doing down here.*


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