On Tour – Paris

Maison de Verre

On a recent trip to Paris last year I attended a tour of what is considered one of the earliest examples of modern architectural design. Designed by Pierre Chareau and Bernard Bijvoet in 1932, Maison de Verre (House of Glass) was the residence and workplace of Dr Jean Dalsace and his family. Stepping out of a Parisian side street and into a private courtyard we had our first glimpse of the house.
Three stories of black steel and glass address the square courtyard and instantly had me in disbelief that this was an 80 year old building.

” I had never considered how handrails could influence our perception of the space around us”

One of the most memorable parts of the tour was the grand stair that leads from the ground floor and into the large living room. Arriving at the base of the stair our guide noted how the handrail to the stair was so low that it could not actually be used and asked if we could guess why. She went on to explain that the owners had large parties of Parisian Bourgeoisie and as a result the stair was designed specifically for the arrival of these guests. Chareau designed the handrail to ensure that guests would subconsciously correct their posture as they ascended the stair and joined the party.

Until this moment I had never considered how handrails could influence the way we use a stair and our perception of the space around us. In this example the stair ensured that every person would rise into the lounge, standing tall and aware of their surroundings. Masion de Verre is a technically brilliant piece of modernist architecture which is still considered ahead of its time in today’s standards.

By Phillip Nielsen

Maison de Verre staircase

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