Thursday, December 6, 2012

Narrative: The house, it’s owners and cultural history

An alternative name for Maison de Verre (French for House of Glass) is Maison Dalsace which is named after the patron of the house, Dr. Jean Dalsace. Dr. Dalsace was a Parisian doctor and La Maison de Verre served as a clinic, home, and salon of the leftist intelligentsia in Paris. 

Pre-Maison de Verre
In 1918, Jean and Annie Dalsace settled at 195 Boulevard Saint-Germain and asked Pierre Chareau to design their house for them and their future children. The property was gifted to Annie Dalsace on her nuptial. The location of their new home was on 31 Rue St-Guillaume in the Tour Eiffel District of Paris.
The house was inserted into a traditional Parisian home as opposed to demolishing and rebuilding because an elderly woman refused to move off of her apartment on the top floor and was protected by Parisian tenant laws. The architect had to remove the lower stories and leave the top floor for the tenant as well as an entrance on the right side. 

From outside, La Maison de Verre may look small but when one gets to the foot of the main staircase, this is the moment when the real dimensions of the space become apparent to the visitor. One is only aware of this inside. Light invades the room, its presence absolute. The great room is like a beating heart, a modern cathedral full of white dizzying light.

Annie Dalsace in her boudoir
The arrangement of spaces in the house was influenced by both owners, but there is very strong influence from Madame Dalsace that can be seen. Annie was among the first to be excited and embrace modernism. It was Annie’s obstinacy that had driven her to knock down an 18th century town house without a second thought and allow La Maison de Verre to be built in its place. 

The spaces in the house seem to be divided into different sections according to the way they were used and who used them. The first floor served as a clinic for Dr. Dalsace, it was his domain where he reigned alone. The first floor can be analyzed as the “bachelor” or male part of the house, above all because it is in fact Dr. Dalsace’s sacred domain and necessarily consecrated to celibacy. The third floor, which is that of the family bedrooms, can be taken as the feminine area. The second floor can be considered as something in-between, it was one part public and social, and another part private and intimate. The eastern part of the second floor contains the privacy of the boudoir, the domestic space of the kitchen and the sociability of the dining area and can therefore conceptually be considered as the domain of Annie Dalsace. The western section combines the privacy of the study and the public status of the drawing room and as such is under the conceptual sign of a bachelor.

“The client shares responsibilities with the architect.”

The boudoir (the bride) is linked by a detachable “rising” staircase to the main bedroom above, while the study (the bachelor) is linked by a fixed “descending” staircase, to the gynaecologist’s consulting room below. The bathroom is divided into feminine and masculine with bathtub on the feminine side and the shower on the masculine. There are times when the entire work seems to be a reflection of the personality of Annie Dalsace. Subtly the house seems to be more dedicated to the “bride”.

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