Charlotte Perriand (1903 – 1999)

French architect and designer, aimed to create functional living spaces in the belief that better design helps in creating a better society. In her article “L’Art de Vivre” from 1981 she states: “The extension of the art of dwelling is the art of living—living in harmony with man’s deepest drives and with his adopted or fabricated environment.”

Charlotte Perriand, French Designer

Image source: http://side-gallery.com/artist/charlotte-perriand/


Early life

Perriand’s stellar drawing abilities caught the attention of her junior-high-school art instructor. At the urging of her mother, Perriand attended the École de l’Union Centrale des Arts Décoratifs from 1920 to 1925. There, under the tutelage of the school’s artistic director, Henri Rapin (a talented and practicing interior designer), she thrived, and her work showed great promise.

Charlotte Perriand in her studio

Image source: https://www.barnebys.it/blog/design/charlotte-perriand-storia-di-una-vita-creativa/260/

She attended lectures by Maurice Dufrêne, the studio director of La Maîtrise workshop, located at the Galeries Lafayette department store in Paris. Because of his association with the store, Dufrêne challenged the students with pragmatic applicable projects, the results of which could be used by the Galeries Lafayette. Perriand’s schoolwork revealed her to be an adroit designer, and her projects were selected and exhibited at the 1925 Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes.

Bar sous le Toît (Bar under the Roof) created for the Salon d’Automne exhibition in Paris 1927, by 24-year-old Charlotte Perriand

Image source: https://eyeondesign.aiga.org/charlotte-perriand-bar-attic/

After graduation, greatly encouraged by Dufrêne and Rapin, who had advised her that she “had to show to get known,” Perriand submitted her work to be displayed at numerous exhibitions. Her most-notable entry was in the year 1927 at the Salon d’Automne with her design Bar sous le toit (“Bar in the Attic”), an installation of furniture, finishes, and a built-in bar. With her use of materials such as nickel along with a bold design, Bar sous le toit revealed Perriand’s preference for an aesthetic that mirrored the age of the machine and a break with the École’s preference for finely handcrafted objects made of exotic and rare woods. The project was a watershed moment in her career, as Perriand wholeheartedly embraced the use of steel, a medium previously used only by men, as her material of choice to convey newfound expressions of modern design.

Info source: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Charlotte-Perriand

 

We don’t embroider cushions

Perriand read Le Corbusier’s books Vers une architecture (1923; Toward an Architecture) and L’Art décoratif d’aujourd’hui (1925; The Decorative Art of Today), setting in motion her next endeavour: to work with the author, an innovative and revolutionary architect. She was “dazzled” by his writings. By Perriand’s account, when she arrived at his atelier with her portfolio in hand, seeking a position, he dismissively told her, “We don’t embroider cushions in my studio.” Not discouraged by his degrading comment, she invited him to the Salon d’Automne to view her work. Le Corbusier, recognizing a kindred spirit after seeing her Bar sous le toit design, hired her.

Charlotte Perriand, Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret

Image source: http://www.iglooo.it/charlotte-perriand-modernita-le-corbusier-prodotti/

From 1927 to 1937 she worked in the atelier, later calling that experience “a privilege.” Her charge and focus was on l’équipement intérieur de l’habitation (“the equipment of a modern dwelling”) or furniture designed by the atelier, including the fabrication of the prototypes and their final production.

LC4 lounge chair by Le Corbusier & Charlotte Perriand for Cassina, 1960s

Image source: https://www.vntg.com/62616/lc4-lounge-chair-by-le-corbusier-and-charlotte-perriand-for-cassina-1960s/

In 1928 she designed three chairs from Corbusier’s principles that the chair was a “machine for sitting,” and that each of the three would accommodate different positions for different tasks. At Corbusier’s request a chair was made for conversation: the B301 sling back chair; another for relaxation: the LC2 Grand Confort chair; and the last for sleeping: the B306 chaise longue. The chairs had tubular steel frames. In the prototype models, the steel was painted; in production the steel tubes were nickel- or chromium-plated.

LC Chairs By Pierre Jeanneret Charlotte Perriand And Le Corbusier

Image source: http://therobertgomez.com/lc-chairs-by-pierre-jeanneret-charlotte-perriand-and-le/

Her presence in the Le Corbusier studio is visible in all the furnishings designed with him and with Pierre Jeanneret: and so Charlotte Perriand becomes a cornerstone in the reformation project promoted by the architect, adding a distinct dimension of humaneness to the often cold rationalism of Le Corbusier. In her creations she manages to animate the fundamental substance of daily life with new aesthetic values: in particular her talent and intuition in the discovery and use of new materials manifest themselves to their full extent.

Info source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charlotte_Perriand

 

The outbreak of war and the Far East

Perriand abandoned her partnership with Le Corbuisier in 1937 to strike out on her own. But friendships and professional relationships forged with him, as well as the methodological principles and teamwork approach, would remain central to her practice. The outbreak of war found her researching the design of temporary prefabricated housing with Jean Prouvé and Pierre Blanchon.

Charlotte Perriand, Tokyo, 1954

Image source: http://nemolighting.com/us/designers/show/charlotte-perriand/

In 1940 she received an invitation from the Japanese ministry of commerce and industry to advise on the future of Japanese industrial art production. The experience of Japan was clearly important and seems to have reinforced her interest in the potential of artisanal processes and materials for new uses. During her long stay in the Far East (‘40-‘46), she reveals her artistic talent to the full, through a reinterpretation of the reality of life to echo both tradition and modernity. By way of example, worthy of mention are the furnishings produced using traditional bamboo processing techniques, capable of enhancing the new forms already experimented using steel-tubing. The famous chaise longue, for instance, was reinterpreted in bamboo.

Tokyo is an outdoor chaise longue by Charlotte Perriand for Cassina, Reinterpretacion of the iconic LC4

Image source: http://www.factorystylemag.it/la-designer-charlotte-perriand-in-mostra-a-milano/

In her postwar practice Perriand worked with a wide variety of collaborators including Le Corbusier, with whom she designed the prototype kitchen for the first of the famous unités d’habitation. She went on to design prefabricated kitchen and bathroom units, and was associated with Formes Utiles – an organisation committed to encouraging good design in mass-produced everyday objects for the domestic environment. She designed offices for Air France in London and Tokyo, and studio apartments and fittings for the sports/hotel complex at Arcs en Savoie.

Info source: https://www.theguardian.com/news/1999/nov/08/guardianobituaries

 

Women and furniture designer

After World War I, women had more opportunities than they had before, but they were still barred from many professions. For example, women were welcome at the Bauhaus, but they were not allowed to study furniture making or architecture, and nearly all were shunted to the weaving workshop. Within this context, along came the 24-year-old art school-grad Charlotte Perriand, bored by the traditional Beaux-Arts designs around her, hoping to design furniture using new industrial materials.

To make her famous was not only the work of designers, but also her extremely progressive mentality.

Image source: http://movimentocontaminarte.blogspot.it/2011/10/charlotte-perriand.html

Perriand successfully escaped the straitjacket of those areas of design traditionally designated as female. At a time when women were expected to stay home and “embroider cushions,” Perriand bent tubular steel and traveled the world in search of a modern aesthetic. Although too often obscured by Le Corbusier’s fame, Perriand designed some of modern furniture’s worthy icons.

Info source: https://www.apartmenttherapy.com/last-week-we-discussed-98469

Charlotte Perriand full membership of that avant-garde cultural movement which, from the first decades of the twentieth century, brought about a profound change in aesthetic values and gave birth to a truly modern sensitivity towards everyday life. In this context, her specific contribution focuses on interior composition, conceived as creating a new way of living, still today at the heart of contemporary lifestyle.

Info source: https://www.cassina.com/en/designer/charlotte-perriand