Grace La on Eileen Gray’s E-1027 Table

The chair of the Department of Architecture at Harvard GSD reflects on the Irish architect’s iconic design.

Some objects transcend iconicity to root themselves in one’s life. An early courtship gift from my husband—Eileen Gray’s Table E-1027—has held our fascination since our first exposure to her work. Despite various scuffs revealing its everyday use, and critiques that it is cold and abstract, the table is one of my most beloved possessions.

It has served numerous gatherings, entertaining faculty, friends, students, scholars, and dignitaries. Lightweight and adjustable, it is rarely in the same spot at the beginning of the night as at its end. It has been a coconspirator in our journeys— from living room to bedroom, from a midcentury Modern home to an urban apartment, from the Midwest to the East Coast. It has sidled up to an array of furniture, supporting morning coffee and midnight tea with equal ease.

I am struck by the notion that the table’s value (like many things in life) depends on its internal and external relations. Its circular geometry is balanced by the angular asymmetry of its support. Glass-and-chrome abstraction contrasts with the softness of the rug beneath it. The immovable weight of the couch benefits from the table as a rootless object. Table E-1027 reminds me that perspectives are dynamic, nuanced, and reciprocal, and that value is drawn most deeply from experience rather than style.

Eileen Gray’s E-1027 Table (1927)

Grace La is the chair of the Department of Architecture and a professor at Harvard GSD. She is also principal of the Boston- and Milwaukee-based practice LA DALLMAN, cofounded with James Dallman, and internationally recognized for works that expand architects’ agency in the civic recalibration of infrastructure, public space, and challenging sites. La hosts Talking Practice, a podcast on innovative practice, and is a faculty director for Harvard’s Graduate Commons Program.

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