Door 1: Charlotte Perriand

The recent interest in early 20th century design with the likes of Pierre Jeanneret or Jean Prouvé put the spotlight to another French design figure: Charlotte Perriand. Furniture design was then a male dominated field and her impact neglected, but fortunately step by step she finally gets the credit she deserves. Even though Charlotte Perriand preferred the term interior architect, she herself shaped pivotal design moments of the 20th century, which includes the design itself, but also her approach, the use of materials and the people she worked with.

Charlotte was born in 1903 in Paris to a tailor father and a seamstress mother. She spent her childhood between her hometown and her grandparents in the mountainous region Savoie. These visits and the proximity of nature would impact her design later on. After her high school teacher saw her drawings, her mother encouraged her to enroll into the École de L'Union Centrale de Arts Decoratifs, which she did in 1920

 

Inspired by the cars and bicycles she saw on the streets she famously designed in 1927 her Bar sous le toit, Bar under the roof shown at the Salon D'Automne. Thereby she used metal and glass, materials rather linked to the industry and stood in total contrast to the predominant Art Déco style. The bar was shown to Le Corbusier by his cousin Pierre Jeanneret and led to 10 year long employment of Charlotte Perriand at Corbusier's Rue de Sèvres Studio.

During het stint at the studio she created together with Le Corbusier and Jeanneret some furniture classics. Especially her use of cleaner materials like chromium-plated tubular steel in combination with leather. The most famous one are the chairs B301, LC2 and the chaise longue B306. After parting from the studio in 1937, her use of materials radically changed. Wood and cane became her predominant materials, which was seen as another break of trends like her initial use of glass and metal. Her goal thereby was to democratize design and making it more affordable for a broader public.

Shortly before the beginning of the 2nd World War she was asked by the Japanese Ministry for Trade and Industry to help them make use of their traditional techniques and design products for the Western market. This inspired her to do a bamboo version of her B306 lounge chair. The war prolonged her stay in Asia and was forced to stay in exile in Vietnam, where she again studied the techniques of the local artisans.

After coming back to Europe in 1947 she continued where she left and collaborated with architects like Jean Prouvé or Le Corbusier on various housing projects, but also on her own like the famous Les Arcs Skiing resort or Air France offices in London, Paris, and Tokyo.