Extraordinary Women: Designer Eileen Gray

You may recognize the table fashioned from steel and glass, above left, designed almost a century ago. But do you know much about the designer? We are thrilled to welcome Toronto-born New York-based Jan Greben as our speaker for a presentation of the documentary Gray Matters about the Anglo-Irish modernist designer Eileen Gray (1878-1976). Gray created the metal and glass table for a ship-like holiday house she built on a rocky promontory near Monaco. Bringing her specific sensibility to a design project, she maintained, contrary to her avant-garde contemporaries, that the interior “should not be the incidental result of the façade; it should lead to a complete harmonious, and logical life.”

Jan, who studied architecture at University of Toronto, has conducted seminars about Gray and has produced a book about her work.

The Film:
The documentary by director Marco Antonio Orsini was released in 2014. Here is a description from the film’s website: “Gray Matters explores the long, fascinating life and complicated career of architect and designer Eileen Gray, whose uncompromising vision defined and defied the practice of modernism in decoration, design and architecture. Making a reputation with her traditional lacquer work in the first decade of the 20th century, she became a critically acclaimed and sought after designer and decorator in the next before reinventing herself as an architect, a field in which she laboured largely in obscurity. Apart from the accolades that greeted her first building – persistently and perversely credited to her mentor – her pioneering work was done quietly, privately and to her own specifications. But she lived long enough (98) to be re-discovered and acclaimed. Today, with her work commanding extraordinary prices and attention, her legacy, like its creator, remains elusive, contested and compelling.”

About Jan Greben:
Jan holds a Bachelor of Architecture from the University of Toronto and a Master of Science in Advanced Architectural Design from Columbia University. She has taught Architecture Studio at the New York Institute of Technology for twelve years; developed and taught seminar courses on the architecture of Eileen Gray, Le Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe; and has co-taught Study Abroad programs in France. The publication Eileen Gray: Conversations highlights the work of her seminar students and includes a conversation with architectural historians Caroline Constant and Mary McLeod. Janis a registered architect.

Director: Marco Antonio Orsini


This is event is one in Back Lane Studios’ series of screenings about Extraordinary Women:


Tickets: $15 on Eventbrite; $18 at the door.