In 1933 Paul Nelson wrote in the magazine L’Architecture d’Aujourd’hui that entering the Maison de Verre , or “House of Glass, “ in Paris was like being transported to “another planet.” For contemporary viewers , the house seemed to invert all expectations of domestic architecture , such as obvious comfort and distinct traditionalism. Instead, the Maison de Verre suggested a new path for domestic design that would incorporate modern materials in inventive ways. Yet the building was not the “machine for living” that Chareau’s contemporary Le Corbusier imagined the house would become. Instead of using modern materials mechanistically, Chareau used them in an original way to produce what Pierre Vago characterised as a “charming fantasy.”
During the late 1920s and ‘30s, domestic architecture in France was subject to a highly politicised debate. Some architects and critics called for a return to the forms of traditional house, such as steeply-pinched roofs and massive stone walls, to enforce a recovery of conservative social and political values. Other demanded that domestic architecture by profoundly reconsidered, and made to incorporate materials like metal and glass as an inexpensive way to meet the critical need for housing. The Maison de Verre was an important model for how the architecture of private residences could be reconceptualised. While Chareau’s design made use of modern materials, it was not as severe as some modernist houses of the 1920s. Moreover, the dramatic effects produced by light on the building emphasized the subjective element of architecture.
The Maison de Verre was conceived to include the family residence as well as Dr. Dalsace’s medical office. As a result of its program incorporating a variety of functions, and its construction within the courtyard of and eighteenth -century private residence, the Maison de Verre constituted a complex space. Nonetheless, a degree of openness was achieved by the use of moveable partitions made of metal or grass, as well as curtains to subdivide the interior. Among the most celebrated spaces within the Maison de Verre was its three-story living room and library with a soaring wall comprising a metal grid filled with glass block.
The fame of the Maison de Verre has developed primarily as a consequence of its glass wall that faces into the courtyard. The wall of glass block served to filter natural light into the interior during the day; at night this function continued as the wall was flooded with artificial light from the exterior. Indeed, it is this dramatic and glowing wall of glass that has made the Maison de Verre one of the canonical houses of the twentieth century. It has continued to inspire architects concerned with generating new aesthetic qualities form modern materials up to the present day.