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Charlotte Perriand is a trailblazer in modern design, renowned for her avant-garde approach to design. Her work spans several decades and continents, and continues to inspire designers and architects today. In this blog, we will explore Perriand’s life, career, and her vision for design and architecture.
Perriand was born in Paris in 1903 and showed a keen interest in art and design from an early age. She enrolled at the École de l’Union Centrale des Arts Décoratifs in 1920, where she studied furniture design. She quickly established herself as a creative force, with a passion for experimenting with new materials and a focus on user-centered design. After completing her studies, she worked for several renowned architects and designers, including Le Corbusier.
Perriand’s career took off in the 1920s with the creation of the Bar Sous Le Toit, a famous piece of furniture that celebrated the use of chromed tubular steel.
It was showcased at the 1927 Salon d’Automne, where Le Corbusier saw it and was impressed. This led to a significant collaboration that lasted from 1927 to 1937, during which Perriand worked as a key member of Le Corbusier’s office, where she was responsible for interior research and development. Together with Pierre Jeanneret, they shared a vision of furniture as part of a system that exploited the great potential of new materials, transformation techniques, and mass production. This resulted in some of the most iconic pieces of furniture of the 20th century, including the tilting chaise-longue, the reclining back armchair, and the grand comfort armchair, known today by their production codes LC4, LC1, and LC2.
Perriand also collaborated with other renowned architects and designers, including Jean Prouvé and Fernand Léger. Her work with Prouvé on prefabricated housing solutions was particularly innovative and influential.
Perriand’s focus on the “art of living” was central to her work. She developed cheaper lines of mass-produced furniture and criticized contemporary architecture for its detachment from social needs. She strived to devise spaces, objects, and processes that went beyond bourgeois self-fulfillment or self-fashioning to activate a genuine transformation of daily existence. Yet, there were tensions and contradictions in how this might be achieved.
Perriand traveled to Japan in 1940 to advise the Ministry of Commerce and Industry on industrial art production. During her stay, she discovered the art of inhabiting and the power of emptiness in Japanese culture. She adapted her own creations, such as a set of chairs and tables, using local materials like bamboo and wood.
Perriand returned to Japan in 1953 and staged another exhibition called Synthesis of the Arts with Fernand Léger and Le Corbusier. She created an iconic Nuage bookshelf and continued working on projects for Air France and various Japanese clients.
Her later creations, such as the Banquettes Tokyo from 1954 and a lamp made in collaboration with Isamu Noguchi in the 1960s, are also evidence of her productivity. Additionally, she developed a growing interest in expressing the qualities of natural materials, as seen in her simplistic wood furniture and a bench made from a split tree trunk.
Perriand’s career in Japan drew to a close with her final creation, a tea house for her friend and ikebana master, Hiroshi Teshigahara.
In addition to her furniture designs, Perriand also worked on several architectural projects throughout her career. One of her most famous projects is the Les Arcs ski resort in the French Alps, which she designed in collaboration with a team of architects and engineers. The resort features a unique modular design that allows for flexibility and customization.
Charlotte Perriand was a true pioneer of modern design, whose work continues to inspire generations. From her early collaborations with Le Corbusier to her nature-inspired designs and architectural projects, Perriand’s impact on the world of design cannot be overstated. Her legacy lives on in the iconic furniture pieces and architectural projects that continue to captivate audiences around the world.