A deserted Paris house holds the mystery of the brilliant Viennese modernist Jean Welz who worked alongside Le Corbusier and Adolf Loos. His story has never been told until now.
A leading painter still highly regarded in South Africa, Jean Welz was an economic emigre from Europe on the eve of WWII. His prior architectural career has been virtually unknown until a string of discoveries unfolded for author and filmmaker Peter Wyeth over eight years, allowing him to narrate this amazing true tale of genius.
Born in 1900 and trained in ultra-sophisticated, but conservative Vienna, Welz was sent to Paris for the 1925 Art Deco exhibition by his influential employer, renowned architect Josef Hoffmann. There he met preeminent modern architects Le Corbusier and Adolf Loos. The latter employed him to assist in building a house for the founder of Dada, Tristan Tzara. They all mixed in avant-garde circles at the Cafe du Dome in Montparnasse along with Welz’s classmate from Vienna, later Chicago-based architect Gabriel Guevrekian; Welz’s future employer Raymond Fischer, whose archive was mostly destroyed by Nazis; and photographer André Kertész.
Through Welz’s South African family archive, author Wyeth retrieves stories, letters, portfolios, and photographs generations after Welz’s death that unravel his heroic designs, his stunning built critique of Corbusier’s “Five Points of Architecture,” a gravestone for Marx’s daughter, and the many ways that Welz disappeared amongst his collaborators, intentionally and not.
This account of why Jean Welz did not become a famous name in architecture takes us through his brother’s Nazi-dealings, illness, betrayal, self-destruction, Apartheid, and an uncompromising artist’s vision at the same time sifting through significant, literally-concrete evidence of Welz’s built projects and visionary designs.
Praise for Welz's Maison Zilveli
One of the last testimonies of modernism in intramural Paris is the the Maison Zilveli by the Viennese architect Jean Welz, near Adolf Loos and the Roche du Corbusier house. […] British filmmaker
Peter Wyeth, very involved in the preservation of the house, explains that “it is very rare to have a modernist house that has remained unchanged: it is a real case study.”
—Le Journal des Arts
[Maison Zilveli is] the most avant-garde house in the whole Paris area.
—Tim Benton, author of Le Corbusier conférencier (winner 200 Prix National du Livre) and The Modernist Home (V&A Publications), among other writing
The future of this avant-garde masterpiece of the architect Jean Welz remains in the balance.