Global Irish Research Network (GIRN) Seminar - Daniel Ryan

When:14 May 2014, 4:30pm - 6:30pm
Venue:Room 310, Morven Brown Building, Kensington Campus, UNSW Sydney
Who:Daniel Ryan, Associate Lecturer in Sustainable Design, University of Sydney

You are invited to the next meeting of the Global Irish Research Network, a seminar presentation by Daniel Ryan

'Resisting Restitution: The Conservation of Eileen Gray's Villa E1027'


When people think of the conservation of Irish architecture, controversies over the preservation and interpretation of the country's Viking, Medieval and Georgian heritage spring to mind. Current debates about the preservation of its twentieth-century architecture rarely garner much attention. However, one of the most important buildings by an Irish architect, Eileen Gray's 'Villa E-1027', in the South of France, has become a test case for the documentation and preservation of modern architecture.

Although Irish architects have not commanded global attention to the same extent as its writers, poets and playwrights, the Enniscorthy-born designer, Eileen Gray (1879–1976), stands out as a key exception. Her houses and furniture are considered among the canonical works of twentieth-century modernism, perhaps the best known of which is the Villa E-1027 (1926–29). Her first built house, it was designed with the Romanian architect, Jean Badovici for a site in Roquebrune-Sur-Mer near Nice. Admired by and an influence on the works of architect and painter Le Corbusier, Gray largely descended into obscurity during her lifetime. The Irish Government declined the option in 1993 of obtaining Gray's masterpiece, the Villa E-1027, for 'less than a semi-detached house in Blanchardstown'; it was only following the murder of its final owner in 1996 that the French Government stepped in and sought to restore the house to its original condition.

However, the presence of graphic murals by Le Corbusier, which drastically altered the original interiors of the building, and were detested by Gray, created the scene for a battle over what state the building should be restored to. Was the restoration of Villa E-1027 to be about restitution for Eileen Gray, or should it recognise the contentious interventions and troubled lives of its later owners?

Using rarely seen sources, this talk will examine the tortuous history of Villa E-1027, the academic project since the 1970s to restore the reputation of Eileen Gray, and why the preservation of her architecture creates such emotion


Daniel Ryan is Associate Lecturer in Sustainable Design at the University of Sydney. His research focuses on the environmental history of buildings, including Eileen Gray's interpretation of climate in her writings, drawings and buildings. He is completing a PhD at the University of Sydney that examines controversies surrounding the climatic design of housing for European settlers in Tropical Australia.

A native Dubliner, Daniel studied architecture at UCD, graduating in 2003. He was involved in the design of a number of award-winning environmental buildings in Ireland and Italy, before heading to Australia, in 2007, for further study.

Contact and RSVP :

Dr Gemma Clark | Tel: 9385 7399 | Email:

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