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Robert Mallet-Stevens: Biography, Architecture & Furniture

Instructor: David Juliao

David has a bachelor's degree in architecture, has done research in architecture, arts and design and has worked in the field for several years.

In this lesson, explore the life and work of Architect Robert Mallet-Stevens. Learn about his work as a furniture designer and explore some of his architectonic projects, which turned him into a reference for French Modern Architecture.

Robert Mallet-Stevens

The beginning of the 20th century saw big changes in architecture. New technologies and possibilities became available, and with them came new ideas of functional and sober architecture. In France, Robert Mallet-Stevens was among the pioneers of those new designs.

Robert Mallet-Stevens (1886 - 1945), was a French architect and designer. He was part of the movement of Modern Architecture, which was based on unornamented structures and the use of new structural materials like steel and concrete. Along with Le Corbusier, he is considered among the most important French architects of that time. Unfortunately, he ordered all of his archives to be destroyed after his death, so his work has not been as deeply studied.

The Villa Martel, built in Paris in 1927
The Villa Martel, built in Paris in 1927

Brief Biography

Robert Mallet-Stevens was born on March 24, 1886, in Paris. He studied at the Special School of Architecture in Paris and graduated in 1909. At the start of his career, he designed furniture and worked as a set designer for film productions. His architectonic designs mainly focused on houses, for which he often designed all of the interiors and furniture. He also designed interiors for stores and cafes, and he developed most of his projects during the 1920s and 1930s. In the late 1920s, he built several houses on a Parisian street, which was later given his name.

Starting in 1935, Mallet-Stevens worked at the School of Fine Arts of Lille. He designed several pavilions for the World's Fair of 1937. During the Nazi occupation of France, he moved to Southern France to protect his wife, Andrée Léon-Bernheim, who was Jewish. Mallet-Stevens died on February 8, 1945, in Paris.

Architecture

The work of Mallet-Stevens is representative of what Modern Architecture was. His buildings had geometric forms, with no ornaments. He often used reinforced concrete to create the different shapes, and terraces and balconies were a common part of his designs. Buildings usually featured large white facades, with plenty of windows for better interior luminosity. His designs paid attention to comfort and functionality.

Villa Noailles, Hyères (1923 - 1928)

This house was designed by Mallet-Stevens as a summer residence for an aristocratic couple who were very supportive of modern art. The structure consists of cubic elements receding and projecting from the facades, giving origin to terraces and balconies. It has white facades with plenty of square windows. An interior social room is notorious for having no windows, but instead an elaborate skylight made of many cubes, providing abundant daylight to the interior. Mallet-Stevens also designed some furniture pieces for this house.

Ceiling of a Social Room of the Villa Noailles
Ceiling of a Social Room of the Villa Noailles

Villa Martel, Paris (1927)

This house and workshop was built for two sculptor brothers. It is one of the designs by Mallet-Stevens built on the street that now has his name. The house has the characteristic white facades. The lower level was meant to be the workshop. The upper areas have plenty of balconies and terraces and were the residence of the sculptors. The composition is organized around the main staircase, which is perceived as a tall cylinder on the outside. Inside, the stair was conceived as a sculptural piece of concrete with all the different rooms around it.

Staircase of the Villa Martel
Staircase of the Villa Martel

Villa Cavrois, Croix (1932)

One of Mallet-Stevens' largest projects, the Villa Cavrois is a big mansion over 200 feet long. It was designed for a textile industrial without major budget limitations. The facades are covered in yellow bricks, something uncommon in Modern Architecture and probably a request from the client. The house has two levels, a large basement and a long roof terrace. The interiors were decorated with elegant materials, including marbles and exotic woods. The furniture was specifically designed for each room. The house was occupied by the German Army during World War II.

Villa Cavrois
The Villa Cavrois

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