This is the fifth post of seven, each a response to Kate Shrewsday’s request for an itinerary of MTM’s Seven Architectural Wonders. Each text post has a corollary visual post; the text and image posts will alternate between the blogs of Kate Shrewsday and the Andra Watkins. Since I (MTM) am no longer a paid pedant, I will try to make these as entertaining and enlightening as possible in 600 words or less. One ground rule: I cannot include a work of architecture I have not experienced directly and personally, just as one’s list of Great Books should not include a book one hasn’t yet read.
To see the images of the Maison de Verre for this fifth post please click here!
“Would you like some more tea?”
“Yes, please. I must say, your home is so elegant and comfortable; I would have never guessed it the first time I came into your courtyard. Such a surprise. It is not at all like a fishbowl.”
“As much as we entertain here, it really is one of the most private homes. Monsieur Chareau was fabulous; he designed everything to make this house perfect for the way we wanted to live. He had such a lust for every detail. And Mr. Dalbet is a virtuoso in metal. I remember when we told them how we wished we could live without having to make people serve us, and by that night they had devised a whole mechanism to bring food from the kitchen automatically. The house is so intricate yet refined, like a Swiss watch. And it is so peaceful, even though we are in the midst of Paris.”
“I am so glad we shared this tea together. You have been so gracious; I thought being with your husband would be really awkward, given our friendship.”
“My husband and I truly believe in having a modern marriage and living a modern lifestyle It’s like this house: many have preconceptions that it is cold and unemotional, but we both have learned how sensual all its mechanisms are. It is both masculine and feminine: it embraces each of us as individuals and together, and we couldn’t imagine going back to more traditional way of life.”
“Well, I guess it is time. I am still nervous; I have never done this before, you know.”
“You should not worry. Monsieur is so very gentle. And he feels strongly that sterility is important for everyone’s interest. You will be in very capable hands. Would you feel better if I took you downstairs?”
“Oh, no, no. I will be fine.”
“Very well. At the bottom of the stairs where you came in, just rotate the metal screen to the other side and you can go right in. He should be waiting for you.”
“Ma chère, you look radiant. I know this is a new experience for you so I hope I can make you feel relaxed. It may sound clinical but it is important we take precautions to prevent disease. If it will make you more comfortable, I will stand behind this screen while you disrobe.”
“You had a nice tea with my wife, I hope. She loves to show off all the mechanical toys…”
“Ok, ready as I’ll ever be.”
“Alright, now lay down and place your feet up in these stirrups. Relax. Trust me, this won’t hurt a bit. My hygienic practice of gynecology is really going to change women’s’ lives for the better. I feel it is so important, a revolution, really. Imagine how free you will be not to have to worry always about….”
He spoke continually in soft but assured tones, while his hands deftly orchestrated the array of scientific instruments. Dappled light reflected onto the ceiling, as soothing as if she had been in the garden rather than lying on her back, naked on the cool leather.
As she dressed herself, Dr. Dalsace discretely disappeared. When she was clothed, he materialized again, and reached for her hand, gently placing his palm in the curve of her back. “Let me show you out.”
He reached for the door latch. As he grasped it between his thumb and finger, it slid in the curved slot in the convex aluminum surface, arcing downward away from him as the door eased open, willing him to bend forward in a gracious bow. Having just seen her at her most compromised, he now demurred to her as he returned her to the daylight.
She left the house, looking back at the translucent glass façade, and she felt she saw the future with clarity.