Monday, December 10, 2012

Renovations and Restorations

Robert Rubin in his New York apartment
La Maison de Verre was eventually sold to Robert Rubin, an American entrepreneur, in 2006. It was after negotiations which began in 2004 that him and his wife, Stéphane, bought the house for an undisclosed amount. “I think they finally sold it to me because of what I had done with the Maison Tropicale,” he told New York Times architecture critic, Nicolai Ouroussoff, in 2007, “It was a very heavy responsibility to have.” Although he loved the house, he added, “I didn’t want to fetishize it.” He kept true to his words and after buying the house, embarked on a painstaking renovation of its intricate— and for its time, ingenious — mechanical systems. He enlisted a corps of architectural historians and graduate students to decipher its secrets.
He began by slowly restoring the house’s mechanical systems, first the electrical wiring, and then the original heating and plumbing systems. The outdoor spotlights, most of which had been lowered or taken down decades ago, were restored to their original position on a steel frame in the courtyard. He also bought a fancy new stove.
But he left many of the most visible scars untouched: the worn textiles and dulled metal surfaces as well as some of the structural alterations made over the years. He decided not to polish the perforated panels in the salon. The old rubber flooring, whose pattern of small disks looks cracked and worn down in some places, is still there.

Below is an account of Nicolai Ouroussoff's, architecture critic, stay at La Maison de Verre with his girlfriend:

"It wasn’t until we arose the next morning, however, that we fully understood Chareau’s choreography. The bathroom floor is raised in certain areas so that as we crossed it, we could catch occasional glimpses of each other before suddenly dropping back out of view.
A pair of perforated metal panels that divide the shower and bath can swing open, enabling us to chat with each other as we bathed. When they were closed, you could see the outline of a human silhouette moving behind the screen. It was the same dance we had performed around the central salon, now brought to its most intimate scale. The experience drove home how liberating the house must have felt during those first years, when it still hummed with life, with Mr. and Mrs. Dalsace circling into and out of each other’s orbit. The house was a perfect balance between the need for companionship and solitude, a utopia of the senses." 
- Nicolai Ouroussoff, architecture critic for the New York times
Illustration of perforated metal panels in the washroom/ dressing room   

Stephanie Wong

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