Le Corbusier’s holiday home “Le Cabanon” and Elieen Gray’s E1027 villa are officially open to the public after extensive amounts of renovations, leading to the launch of a new organization called Cap Moderne.
The organization, “a non-profit-making association pursuant to the law of 1901 set up in 2014, has been charged by the Conservatoire du littoral with the rehabilitation and tourist, cultural and commercial management of the Eileen Gray-Etoile de Mer-Le Corbusier site located at Roquebrune-Cap Martin,” according to Cap Moderne’s website.
For several years I spent time in Roquebrune-Cap Martin, a French community just outside of Monaco, and one of my favorite morning activities was walking on the rocky paths above the sea, which led to the architectural works of Le Corbusier and Eileen Gray.
Some of those works include: mid-century modern camping huts designed by Le Corbusier called Les Unités de Camping, and a modernist restaurant, l’Étoile de Mer, owned by Thomas Rebutato, where Le Corbusier used to dine.
These attractions can be visited and appreciated during a designated walking tour that showcases the foundations of modern architecture used to construct these buildings.
Other attractions that guests can stop by and see during the tour are a new bookshop-boutique and a visitor center that is located in a former train carriage at the nearby SNCF station.
The new attractions were unveiled this year by Cap Moderne in partnership with the Centre des Monuments Nationaux.
However, for those interested in learning a bit more about Gray’s E1027 Villa—named after a code the couple devised for Eileen Gray and her partner Jean Badovici, who collaborated with her on the house—stopping by the Villa along the tour is a definite must.
The villa was the first architectural creation of Eileen Gray and was built between 1926 and 1929. Its sharp minimalist design, brilliant white walls and strict angles paint a stark yet intriguing contrast compared to the green pine trees surrounding the villa.
As for the interior of the house, Gray included moveable furniture and light fixtures that she designed. One of them would go on to become one of her most iconic pieces, “The Tubular Steel Side Table.” According to modernist lore, she designed the table so that her sister could eat breakfast in bed without leaving crumbs on sheets, due to an adjustable top that caught the crumbs.
Once the villa was completely constructed and the interior was finished, Le Corbusier would go on to fall in love with the villa, resulting in frequent visits and him drawing a mural, which he called “Three Women” on the walls of the house.
Later, restauranteur Thomas Rebutato would build a modernist influenced building that would serve as an eatery called the l’Étoile de Mer next to Elieen Gray’s villa E-1027. Once the eatery opened a friendship between Rebutato’s young son Robert and Le Corbusier would form, resulting in Le Corbusier drawing two murals and a painting on the restaurant’s walls.
Later, in 1951, Le Corbusier would go on and ask Thomas Rebutato to give him a piece of the adjoining land to build a holiday home. His all pine wood Le Cabanon was built the same year and six years later, in return for the parcel of land Rebutato gave him, Le Corbusier designed and built five camping units on the land, which were prototypes of a modular leisure home.
However, the structures were largely left to deteriorate up until 2015 when the Rebutato family and the newly formed Association Cap Moderne set about restoring the buildings, and opening them to public.
As for the future of these structures, in April 2020, the Association Cap Moderne will hand over operations of the buildings to Le Centre des Monuments Nationaux, a French heritage conservation society that will oversee the preservation of the site, with the hope of it becoming a sought-after pilgrimage site for modernist architecture fans. ■