To create, one must first question everything – Eileen Gray
This year The Undergraduate Awards medal will feature Irish designer, artist and architect Eileen Gray. Every year Overall Winners of The Undergraduate Awards receive a medal to recognise their academic excellence. Previous medals have featured leading Irish ‘minds’; George Berkeley, Bram Stoker, Oscar Wilde and William Hamilton. All Winners are brought to the UA Global Summit 2015, a 4-day networking event to meet each other, listen to inspiring Speakers and present their work to each other.
Eileen Gray was chosen to feature on the medal this year as 2015 marks the year of Irish design, where Ireland celebrates Irish and International designers.
Design shapes our daily lives, influencing how we interact with each other and with our environment. At its best, design is a powerful catalyst for change.
Irish Design 2015, under the patronage of President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins, is about harnessing this power and working to support society; educators and students; designers; the public sector; and businesses. As well as this, Eileen Gray will be the first woman to feature on The Undergraduate Awards medal.
Born in Ireland in 1878, Gray’s work was neglected for the most of her career but is now regarded as one of the most important of the early 20th century. Gray was among the first women to be admitted to the Slade school in London, where she took up painting in 1898 before undergoing an apprenticeship in a London lacquer workshop. She continued to improve her craft at the École Colarossi and the Académie Julian when she established herself as one of the leading designers of the lacquered screens and decorative panels, so popular at the time of the Art Deco era.
In her lacquer work and carpets, she merged traditional crafts with the principles of Fauvism, Cubism and De Stijl. She was the first designer to work in chrome, preceding such acclaimed designers as Le Corbusier, Charlotte Perriand, Mies Van der Rohe, and Marcel Breuer; and was original in her use of aluminium, celluloid, tubular steel, bakelite and cork in her designs.
Her collection can be viewed in the National Museum of Ireland at Collins Barracks in Dublin or her pieces can be viewed online here.
Her house, E-1027 is considered Gray’s first considerable architectural design and is located on the Cotê d’Azure. Instead of a sentimental seaside name, Gray chose a streamlined numerological symbol for her relationship with Badovici, her lover: ‘E’ was for ‘Eileen’, the ’10’ and ‘2’ represented Badovici’s initials—according to their place in the alphabet—and the ‘7’ was for ‘G’, so that Gray was, in a sense, embracing him: E-1027.
A documentary of Eileen Gray produced by Irish broadcaster TG4 can be found here (subtitles included): Part 1 (12 mins) focuses on her background and early life and Part 2 (13 mins) introduces us to her life in Paris and E -1027, the Machine for Living and Le Corbusier. Or take a tour of the house with this video by Patrick Moya and Florence Canarelli.
The shortlist for The Undergraduate Awards will be announced in early September and the list will be published on our website. We look forward to welcoming Winners and Highly Commended Students to the Global Summit, which takes place from November 10th – 13th 2015. More information on the prize can be found at The Prize.
Previous medals of The Undergraduate Awards include: