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AIA UK Film Night: The Price of Desire - 25 October 2016

Fiona Mckay

The 2016 Autumn series kicked off with the much anticipated movie The Price of Desire, which we were finally able to get from Munro Films. Many thanks to them for all their assistance.

The Price Of Desire is the controversial story of the bisexual Irish artist Eileen Gray and how her influential contribution to 20th century architecture and design was almost wiped from history by the egotistical ‘Father of Modernism’, Le Corbusier. The film unfolds how her relationship with philanderer Jean Badovici, editor of influential L’Architecture Vivante, and the man who made Le Corbusier famous, further fuelled the rift between the two architects, and consigned her legacy to a century of neglect and long-overdue recognition.

Set substantially on the Côte d’Azur in and around her most abiding work, the villa e1027, The Price of Desire explores the events surrounding Le Corbusier’s eventual erasure of both Gray’s physical ownership of the property, as well as her intellectual property right to be recognised as the architect of her work. A triangular tale of insidious chauvinism, The Price of Desire resonates as a universal female experience while cinematically evoking the essential aesthetic of Eileen Gray. 

VILLA e1027: Eileen Gray designed and built this first-ever modernist house in Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, France in 1926 for her lover, the architectural journalist Jean Badovici. Le Corbusier, the architect he promoted, so effaced and defaced Gray’s moral right to be recognised as the author of her work that her legacy as one of the most influential inspirations of a century of modern architecture and design was consigned to oblivion for almost a century.

After the Second World War, Jean Badovici made some feeble efforts to request that Le Corbusier remove the vandalistic murals he had painted on its plain white walls, and even promised Eileen Gray that he would put the house back into her name. Le Corbusier was having none of it however, and sadly Jean Badovici died intestate, leaving the fate the ownership of the house to the whims of Le Corbusier, who in turn drowned on his daily swim in the Mediterranean below it. Eileen Gray survived them all and was finally made a fellow of the Royal Institute of Architects of Ireland in recognition of this work in 1995. 

The film was very well received by those in attendance, and the discussion that followed was very lively. We shall be winding up the Autumn & 2016 Film Series with a screening of Koolhaas Houselife at 1900hrs on 22 November at the BFI. 

We look forward to welcoming more of you to that screening, and many thanks to all who have attended our screenings this year!

Author: Christopher Musangi AIA

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