Maison de Verre, Paris
Architect: Pierre Chareau/Bernard Bijvoët/Louis Dalbet
houses in the French capital could have been more startling at the dawn
of the modernist era than the astounding residence/office complex
completed in 1932 for gynecologist Jean Dalsace and his family.
Interior designer and cabinetmaker Pierre Chareau, the lead member of a team that included architect Bernard Bijvoet and metalsmith Louis Dalbet, carefully demolished and rebuilt the lower three floors of a four-story, 18th-century townhouse to create an L-shape magnum opus of impressive clinical chic. (The top-floor tenant had refused to move, hence the unusual construction program.)
The exterior of the Dalsace commission, only the second of Chareau’s building projects, is largely sheathed in hundreds of textured, translucent-glass blocks, each impressed with a single circle and locked into a grid of dark metal. Encasing the façades like a delicate membrane, the glass filters a filmy, aqueous light through the ingenious interior, its loftlike spaces threaded with five skeletal iron staircases, divided by elegant screens and floored with textured white rubber.
Today Maison de Verre is home to architecture enthusiast and collector Robert M. Rubin and his wife, landscape designer Stéphane Samuel; they purchased the property in 2006, restored it, and now offer limited tours.