Welcome back to #ModernistMondays! At TTC, we are constantly inspired by modernist architects and artists from past and present. To showcase some of our favorites, we launched #ModernistMondays, where we highlight one modernist each month to explore with ten quick facts. You can keep up with #ModernistMondays on the TTC Blog, or our Instagram page! Our April pick is none other than the French furniture designer and trailblazer Charlotte Perriand.
French architect and designer Charlotte Perriand was the daughter of two tailors. Growing up, she was surrounded by creativity, design, and various textiles. As she grew older, her parents urged her to study furniture design at École de L’Union Centrale des Arts Décoratifs.
At École de L’Union Centrale des Arts Décoratifs, Perriand studied under the esteemed Art Deco interior designer Henri Rapin. He encouraged her to go bolder with her designs, which led to her early success.
In 1927, her exhibition titledBar Sous le Toit (“bar under one roof”) caught the attention of various figures in design for her striking choice to use chrome and aluminum in her furniture designs, something that was rarely seen. After the exhibition’s success, she was invited to work for Le Corbusier.
Although he is a celebrated design pioneer, Corbusier was known to treat women unfairly. When Perriand went to work in his studio, he belittled her work, along with the work of her other female colleagues. However, Perriand’s contribution to the firm was notable; she and her colleague contributed heavily to the design of the now-iconic LC Family of furniture, including some of Corbusier’s most famous pieces. As of 2021, Perriand has posthumously been formally credited for her work on the line.
In the early 1930s, Perriand left Le Corbusier’s firm and partnered with another former Corbusier employee, Jean Prouvé, a self-taught architect, with whom she designed multiple pieces of storage furniture. During the beginning of World War II, Perriand and Prouvé designed military barracks for the French troops.
After France fell in the war, Perriand moved to Japan, where she began working with the Ministry for Trade and Industry, advising them on best practices to sell Western furniture. She also created her Banquettes Tokyo during this time, which was a series of benches in solid ash with cushioned seats. While in Japan, Perriand also became increasingly fascinated with natural materials. In one of her interiors,La Maison que Bord de l’Eau, she used tree trunks as seating.
On her return from Europe in the mid-40s, Perriand was detained and forced into exile in Vietnam. During this time, she studied woodworking and weaving before returning to France in 1946.
Upon her move back to Paris, Perriand was a sought-after designer. She collaborated with her former colleague Le Corbusier later in her career; she created the kitchens for his Unité d’Habitation apartment model, which is now used around Europe.
Some of Perriand’s most notable large-scale projects were built in the 50s and 60s. She designed competition drawings for the League of Nations Building in Geneva, Switzerland, and designed three Air France offices in London, Paris and Tokyo. She was the architect of two expansive ski resorts in France, a personal chalet at the Meribél ski resort, and the Les Arcs in the Alps (1982); the latter hosted the ski portion of the 1992 Winter Olympics.
Perriand was married once in 1926 and again in the mid-40s, in Vietnam, where she had a daughter. She passed away in 1999, but her work with Le Corbusier and on major projects around the world has made a lasting impression on modern design history.
“Charlotte Perriand,” Wikipedia; “It’s Time to Rediscover Charlotte Perriand,” AD PRO; “Charlotte Perriand, Stepping Out of Corbusier’s Shadow,” New York Times