Inside Iconic Houses - Online Tour Program

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Iconic Houses in the Netherlands – Berlage’s Masterpiece

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Iconic Houses in The Netherlands - Het Schip

Inside Iconic Houses - Tour of Maison Cazenave

Inside Iconic Houses Tours Vizcaya Museum & Gardens in Miami

Casa Masó Celebrates 10 Year Anniversary

Inside Iconic Houses tours Roland Reisley's Usonian Frank Lloyd Wright House

Rietveld’s Experimental Housing in Reeuwijk Saved

Serralves Villa after restoration

Watch Pioneers of the Dutch Modern House Now On Demand

Portraits of the Architect - Interview with Gennaro Postiglione

Test Labs for New Ideas - Interview with Natascha Drabbe

Inside Iconic Houses - Isokon Building

Inside Iconic Houses - 16 December: Sunnylands with Janice Lyle

BCN-BXL Coderch-De Koninck - Beyond Time

New Chairman Architect Nanne de Ru on The Perfect Platform

Health and Home - Interview with Beatriz Colomina

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Invisible Women - Interview with Alice T. Friedman

Winy Maas on the Green Dip

Anita Blom on Experimental Housing of the 1970s

Women’s Worlds - Interview with Natalie Dubois

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Hetty Berens: A Fresh Take on Modernism

Niek Smit on Supporting Modern Heritage

Alice Roegholt on Amsterdam’s Working-Class Palaces

July is Iconic Houses Month

Save Maison Zilveli - Sign the Petition!

How a Building Tells a Story - Recorded Event

Toolkit for Owners of a Modern House

13 Aalto Sites Nominated for UNESCO World Heritage

Villa Beer At Risk - Sign the Petition!

Business Cards of Stone, Timber and Concrete in the Brussels Region 1830-1970

Exhibiting & Visiting Modernist Monuments

Fostering Well-Researched Responsible Design


Enjoy a virtual visit to the California House and a Q&A with architect Peter Gluck

Exhibition 'Modernism and Refuge'

A Hidden Gem of Postmodernism

New Centre for Historic Houses of India

An Online Chronicle of the Douglas House

Villa Henny, geometric style icon in The Netherlands

A Mendini temple in Amsterdam

IH-lectures USA & Canada Feb 2020 on Melnikov House

An Afternoon with the Glucks

Danish Moderns – Looking Back at Our Mini-Seminar

Venturo house complements Exhibition Centre WeeGee’s offering

Lecture report: Remembering Richard Neutra

Hôtel Mezzara and the Guimard Museum project

We welcome 13 new members!

BREAKING NEWS: 8 Wright Sites Inscribed on Unesco World Heritage List!

LECTURE 29 August - Raymond Neutra: My Father and Frank Lloyd Wright

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Our Badge of Honour

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Iconic Houses End Year Message

City-ordered rebuild of landmark house stirs debate: Appropriate or overreach?

Kohlberg House Restoration in Progress

Planned Demolition of Rietveld Homes in Reeuwijk

Renovation Gili House in Crisis

An Iconic Saga

Restoring Eileen Gray’s Villa E-1027 and Clarifying the Controversies

Modernism on the East Coast

Iconic Houses in Latin America

House Tours May 2018 

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Terence Riley -KEYNOTE SPEAKER- on Philip Johnson

New era for Villa E-1027 and Cap Moderne

Jorge Liernur -KEYNOTE SPEAKER- on Latin American Modernism(s)

Restoring the past: The Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo Home Studio

Behind the Scenes: Hendrick de Keyser Association

Latin America Special – Focus on Mexico

De Stijl in Drachten

Preserving the Nancarrow House-Studio

Meet the Friends - Nanne de Ru

Latin America Special – Focus on Brazil

Jan de Jong’s House is Latest Hendrick de Keyser Acquisition

Stay in a Belgian Modernist Masterpiece

In Berlin’s Modernist Network

Rietveld-Schröder House Celebrates De Stijl Anniversary

Meet Our New Foundation Board Members

Virtual Tour of a Papaverhof Home in 3D

Getty Grant for Villa E-1027

Iconic Dacha

11 Le Corbusier Homes now on Unesco World Heritage List

At home with Le Corbusier

Wright Plus 2016 Walk

Speaking Volumes: Building the Iconic Houses Library

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Documentary La Ricarda

Rent a house designed by Gerrit Rietveld

Barragán House on Screen

Gesamtkunstwerk – An Icon on the Move

Triennale der Moderne 27 September - 13 October 2013

Prestigious Art Nouveau mansions in Brussels open

September 14 + 15: Heritage Days in Paris

June's New Arrivals: Museum Apartments

Iconic Houses is now on Twitter and Facebook

Corbu’s Cabanon: Reconstruction and Lecture

Projekt Mies In Krefeld: Life-sized model of the Krefeld Clubhouse

New arrivals: Spain special

MAMO: Le Corbu’s ‘Park in the Sky’ open 12 June

Annual Wright Architectural Housewalk: 18 May

Frank Lloyd Wright Homes on Screen

Message from the Editor

Neutra’s House on Screen

Melnikov House on Screen

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Message from the Editor

Eileen Gray House on Screen

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At Home in the 20th Century

New 20th century Iconic Houses website launches

16 December 2013

Icon at Risk: A Paris oddity - saving Maison Zilveli


Peter Wyeth discovers an important modernist house in need of urgent repair

Imagine coming across the most radically modernist house you have ever seen, in the middle of Paris. It’s deserted and falling into ruin, its interior unchanged since it was built eighty years ago. Perched on a hillside with a distant view of Montmartre, it is today a sad sight: its street façade cracked, the elevations leaning alarmingly and the steel-framed windows askew. The house is supported – rather precariously these days – on cruciform pillars in reinforced concrete, rising almost five meters from the ground.

With its pilotis and its long façade at right angles to the street, the casual eye might attribute the house to an amateur Le Corbusier. In its present state, it is an image of modernism gone shabby – or moche (ugly), as an elderly neighbour described it, ironically referring to the house as ‘Le Chateau’ – but a monochrome photograph of the building when it was built presents a very different image.

Jean Welz
We can learn more about the house by peeling back the historical layers to 1918 Vienna, when a young would-be architect arrived there to study under Josef Hoffmann but soon fell under the spell of Adolf Loos, arch-critic of Hoffmann. That student, Jean Welz, would go on to become one of South Africa’s leading painters, and by the time of his death in 1975 his architectural past was almost forgotten. Even the house in question is listed in the local town hall under the name of another architect.

There is a remarkable terrace of three attached modernist houses just outside the Paris périphérique, no 8 is by Mallet-Stevens, no 6 by Le Corbusier (Maison Cook), and no 4 is credited to Raymond Fischer (Maison Lubin) but according to Welz’s family, that house should be attributed to him. Welz worked for Mallet-Stevens and then with Loos on a house in Paris for Tristan Tzara, before becoming chef de cabinet in the Fischer practice. Welz was also a friend of Le Corbusier, who wrote him a letter of recommendation when he left for South Africa. Two houses were credited to him in the leading French magazine of Modern architecture of the time, L’Architecture d’Aujourd’hui. The first, in 1931, has a short text by Fischer praising its ‘maison minimum’ contribution. The second, dated 1933, is credited to Weltz (sic). This is the radical house shown in these photographs, Maison Zilveli.

Modernist language
The site is an unstable hillside, created from the waste extracted to build the Parc des Buttes Chaumont in 1867. The most distinctive aspect of the site is hardly visible from ground level, but is perfectly served by Welz’s house on stilts, for few houses could claim such views. One large window faces west towards Montmartre and the basilica of Sacré Coeur, while the other faces south, with a view of the Eiffel Tower. Welz conceived a long box 20 meters by 4.5 meters, stuck five meters in the air and high enough to see beyond the building-line of its brick-built neighbours.

Apart from the priceless views, the budget must have been kept to an absolute minimum, as the house is very cheaply constructed. The street elevation exceeds the plainness of his master Loos, and must have been a slap in the face of its bourgeois neighbours. The long south facade bears comparison with the Villa Savoye, but it was neither skimmed nor painted, and it does not hide the fact that it was made in sections. It was topped by an extraordinary balcony (destroyed by the local prefecture without objection from the Architectes des Bâtiments de France) with its 10 cm beton brut supporting blade bearing the marks of its wooden shuttering construction. This is perhaps the first such finish in the history of Modern architecture, fifteen years before Le Corbusier’s Unité d’Habitation in Marseilles and forty years before Denys Lasdun’s National Theatre.

That striking balcony had a built-in desk and seat, an outside office facing Sacré Coeur - echoing the view from the big ‘l’Esprit Nouveau’ end window. Loos’s Raumplan concept held that interiors should be divided into split-level spaces according to their functional importance, and his influence on Welz is clear, with three levels on the main floor alone. Altogether, the house is an oddity, but one intimately influenced by the heroic era of Modern architecture, while also making a highly distinctive contribution to it.

Saving Maison Zilveli
To try to save Maison Zilveli I have worked with a Parisian architect who brought in a top engineer to survey the structure. He visited several times and drew up recommendations to stabilise the ground beneath and the reinforced concrete above. The architect both devised a budget for the engineering work and the restoration project and researched a Foundation to which the house can be donated as part of a cultural project I devised. Les Modernistes Disparus would document the diaspora of modernist artists in every art who left Paris in the 30s either through the Great Crash of 1929 or the rise of fascism. Conserving the patina of the building is a major priority and the restored house would be a base for small exhibitions and research presentations across the modernist arts of the 30s, and a tribute to the rigorous creative imagination of Jean Welz.

Peter Wyeth

Peter Wyeth is 'a builder with a little latin', a redundant film-maker, and is publishing a book on 'affective neurobiology and the Cinema' next summer.

This article was previously published in the Twentieth Century Society’s C20 Magazine, issue 3 2013. www.c20society.org.uk

Maison Zilveli in 2013

The original fitted table has been pulled from the wall by burglars but proved too heavy to remove

Loosian plainness: the street facade in 2013

The fitted table inside was made by a Greek sculptor friend

House on stilts: on completion in 1933. Note the sandpit next to the small child.