HOTEL MARTEL

Economies of Art and Life

Written by Forde Visser
Photographed by DePasquale + Maffini

They shared an enthusiastic vision for reinforced concrete as a modern material, and it was sculpture and architecture that first brought them together.

Robert Mallet- Stevens and Jan and Joël Martel collaborated at the 1925 Paris Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes: Mallet-Stevens as French Pavilion architect;the Martel brothers providing the garden sculpture, four concrete “trees” (Arbres Cubistes). Not long afterwards, the twins engaged Mallet-Stevens to build them a two-family townhouse with common sculpture studio in the 16th arrondissement of Paris.

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Hotel Martel, completed in 1927, was part of an overall residential plan by the architect in the Auteuil area where Mallet-Stevens had already completed several houses. Today, Hotel Martel, which remained in the family until the 1990s, has been restored and conserved by its current owner, art/antiquities dealer Eric Touchaleaume, and is now the most complete example of Mallet-Stevens’ residential work. Touchaleaume’s Galerie 54 revives the original gesture of art and life by reintroducing sculpture and mid-century-modern furnishings into the former sculpture workshop and throughout the apartments, in which he also lives. At the same time, Touchaleaume maintains Mallet-Stevens’ legacy through public events and scholarly publications.

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The corner lot imposes a strong influence on the building: the responding outer walls establish a cohesive cubic form, even with the “stepped array” that creates balconies and patios for upper-level living areas. One understands these setback areas as voids related to the whole, rather than as a consequence of offset-stacked blocks. This sculpturally subtractive, rather than additive, concept produces a central cylindrical stairwell that appears from the street, not as a separate silo, but as the revealed core.

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Although the geometries of the building are clearly stated (black lacquered steel doors and darkly gridded windows contrasted against white plaster, a zigzagged plinth), “core” is a more organic idea, one that seems appropriate for a house that held not only the Martel families, but also an upper-level apartment for their father.

Read more in our new book: LIVING IN, edited in collaboration with gestalten.

Buy it here.

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