Charlotte Perriand, born in the year 1903, was a gifted and enthusiastic young woman who brought a profound change in artistic and creative values and gave genesis to a truly modern sensitivity towards everyday life. Her creations were unique in the sense that they were distinctively minimal and had a bit of rustic look to it at the same time. With her exceptional talent at the age of 17, she got enrolled in the Ecole de L’Union Centrale de Arts Decoratifs and studied furniture design for almost five years. Perriand’s most revolutionary piece of furniture was Le Bar sous le Toit, meaning “The bar beneath the roof”, which she created in 1927 and put it on display at the Salon d’ Automne exhibition. It was also the same time that she had applied for a job at the firm of Le Corbusier, who turned her down saying, “We don’t embroider cushions here”. But it was soon that Corbusier realized his mistake after seeing the design himself, and offered her a job at his firm.

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After being appointed as the head of furniture design at Corbusier’s firm, she worked with him and his cousin Pierre Jeanneret for a whole decade, where they created some of the most extraordinary designs. After that, she went on to work with Jean Prouve, where they together designed military barracks and prefabricated, temporary houses. Her practice evolved radically over her lifetime, shaped by her political views. The distinguishing factor of Charlotte Perriand’s persona is an earnest loyalty to the principles of humane and inventive logic, safeguarded in her projects and designs, on which she worked with such enthusiasm.

Charlotte Perriand-10 Iconic Products
(From left to right) Painter Fernand Leger, Charlotte Perriand, Le Corbusier, his brother Albert Jeanneret and cousin Pierre Jeanneret, and MatilaGhyka, a novelist in Athens, 1933 ©nytimes.com

Here are a few ground-breaking products that she created during her lifetime which she had started at a very young age.

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1. Chaise Longue LC4 | Charlotte Perriand

One of the most famous designs created by Charlotte Perriand in Le Corbusier’s office was the Chaise Lounge LC4 in the year 1928. Popularly called the “relaxing machine” by Corbusier, the chair was designed to stimulate the body’s natural curves. Even though all three – Le Corbusier, Pierre Jeanneret, and Charlotte Perriand – worked on this design, it was more of Perriand’s concept which evolved into this unique piece. For the publicity of this chair, Perriand herself decided to pose lying on the chair, which was even criticized by some for her wearing a short skirt, a short sleeve sweater, and her famous ball beaded necklace.

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One of the early design sketches of the Chaise Lounge LC4 by Charlotte Perriand ©dwell.com
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Charlotte Perriand posing on the Chaise Lounge LC4 for publicity, at the Salon d’Automne in the year 1929 ©dwell.com

2. LC2 Armchair

Another furniture, which was a part of the avant-garde furniture exhibited by the trio at Salon d’Automne was the LC2 armchair and caused a genuine sensation. The LC2 chair with other objects designed by them was produced by the Italian Design Manufacturer, Cassina, founded in 1927 in Milan. The frame of this was made of stainless steel, while the seat and backrest were covered with fabric. 

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Initial conceptual sketches of the LC2 chair by Corbusier and Perriand ©phaidon.com
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The final design of the LC2 armchair ©phaidon.com

3. Tunisie Bookcase

Perriand designed this bookcase for the student rooms of La Maison de la Tunisie for the Cité Universitaire in Paris, in the 1950s. For this, she had asked artist Sonia Delaunay to paint the metal panels that were a part of the design.

The main intent behind the design was to make the shelves into bright sculptural objects which would help cheer up the students who might be feeling a little homesick staying in the hostel. The alternating use of colors, studs, and the size of shelves, made the piece run on the wall like a piece of ‘Jazz’. 

Charlotte Perriand - Tunisie Bookcase
Tunisie bookcase designed for the student rooms of La Maison de la Tunisie ©phillips.com

4. The Tonneau Refuge

The Tonneau Refuge pod, designed by Charlotte Perriand and Pierre Jeanneret in 1938, was considered to be futuristic as its design was way ahead of its time. It has been said that the inspiration for this came when Perriand looked at a photograph of a children’s fairground ride in Croatia. The pod was made of prefabricated different ready-made parts that were assembled in situ in a very short period. Insulated aluminum and ply-board panels were used for construction and the whole structure stands on 12 poles, having barely 4 meters in height.

Even though compact in design, it can accommodate up to 8 beds in total. It is designed and shaped in a way to resist high winds while the use of aluminum helps in insulation and reflects heat to melt the snow that accumulates around it. Currently, it sits on the Tour de l’Aveyron path, overlooking the Arve Valley in France.

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Construction and technical sketches of the Tonneau Refuge ©designboom.com
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Early pictures of the Tonneau Refuge after its construction ©designboom.com
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Interior view of the Refuge pod where ply-board panels were used ©delood.com

5. Ball Bearing Necklace | Charlotte Perriand

Perriand was not only involved in designing furniture pieces but she also took into an interest in the creation of jewelry. The most appreciated one was the Ball Bearing necklace which she was seen wearing herself almost all the time, which somehow helped her stand out even more in the male-dominated society of that time. Some critics even considered the necklace as an object and symbol of the machine age. She was very well aware of the new materials that were being introduced at that time and how to use them for their associational and symbolic qualities as well as for their aesthetic effect. 

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The Ball Bearing Necklace designed by Charlotte Perriand ©luxiders.com
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Charlotte Perriand as seen wearing her famous necklace with Ernst Weissmann ©pinterest.com

6. Dining Room 28

This nickel table and tubular-steel stools were designed by Perriand in 1927. She designed chairs using Corbusier’s principle of “chair is a machine for sitting”. Unlike her other table designs made of teakwood, this one used stainless steel, a new material introduced in the machine age, but not everyone knew how to use it appropriately. 

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Perspective drawing of ‘Dining Room 28’ for L’Atelier de Saint-Sulpice, 1927 ©elledecoration.co.uk
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Dining Room 28 as exhibited in the exhibition ©nytimes.com

7. Fauteuil Pivotant (Swivel armchair)

This chair was designed by Perriand before she joined Le Corbusier’s firm in 1927. It was a tubular steel chair, which she initially used in her apartment.
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The design was first exhibited at the Salon des Artistes Decorateurs and even a year later at the Salon d’Automne, along with the nickel table which was a part of the Dining Room 28. It is also said that the backrest presented an almost impossible challenge to the upholsterers, as there was no way to fix the round form to the metal frame. 

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The Fauteuil Pivotant or the Swivel armchair designed by Charlotte Perriand ©collections.vam.ac.uk
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A reconstruction of the Saint-Sulpice studio, an apartment designed by Perriand for herself ©designcurial.com

8. The Bar Sous le Toit

The Bar Sous le Toit or “The Bar under the Roof” is the design that even changed Corbusier’s decision regarding Perriand joining his firm in Paris. It was exhibited at the Salon d’Automne where she had reconstructed her tiny attic apartment. The design had aluminum and nickel-plated surfaces, glass shelves, and leather cushions, which could have been the reason that Corbusier changed his mind as he saw the reflection of his philosophy in her design, “A house is a machine for living in”. 

The Bar Sous le Toit
The ‘Bar Sous le Toit’ created for the 1927 Salon d’Automne ©learnantiques.com.au

9. Chaise Ombre

After designing furniture in collaboration with Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret for a decade, she moved on and went to different countries including Japan. There she designed the much-celebrated Ombre chair. It was conjured from a single sheet of oak plywood and further cut, folded, and curved to evoke the Japanese origami tradition. Along with this, it is also stackable, light, functional, and a perfect synthesis of gesture, form, and technology. Just like other items, this one was also manufactured by Cassina, and shaped the material in full respect to the original design, and its timeless personality.

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Charlotte Perriand - Chaise Ombre
The Ombre Chair designed by Perriand, after having left Corbusier’s firm ©madparis.fr

10. Petalo Nesting Tables | Charlotte Perriand

The Petalo Nesting Tables is a set of five tables of different sizes and colors, which can be compared to a rainbow. The surfaces have a triangular shape, but with rounded corners and a thin metal structure supporting it from beneath. It was created in 1951 initially for the rooms in the University City of Antony in Paris, but unfortunately never went for production. The unique feature of these tables is that they can be used to create many combinations like unfolding them as petals along the arc of a circle, or in other arrangements as well. 

Petalo Nesting Tables
The Petalo Nesting Tables having varied sizes and colors ©retrotogo.com

References:

  • https://www.dwell.com/article/the-woman-behind-le-corbusiers-iconic-chaise-almost-didnt-get-the-job-4e789b44
  • https://www.smow.com/en/designers/le-corbusier-jeanneret-perriand/lc2-armchair.html
  • https://www.ft.com/content/b38619a0-df9b-11e9-b8e0-026e07cbe5b4
  • https://delood.com/photostory/the-refuge-tonneau/
  • http://www.towntopics.com/may1904/art.html
  • https://bluprint.onemega.com/her-modern-marks-life-and-works-of-charlotte-perriand/
  • https://www.cassina.com/en/collection/chairs/lc7
  • https://www.1stdibs.com/introspective-magazine/charlotte-perriand/
  • https://www.cassina.com/en/collection/chairs/517-ombra-tokyo
  • http://www.bonluxat.com/a/charlotte-perriand-petalo-nesting-tables.html
Author

A recent graduate who is always looking for creative opportunities and has a strong passion for writing. She is also a firm believer that in times like today, we as architects must show our creativity not by demolishing old structures, but rather adopting the old ones with new uses.

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