Charlotte Perriand (1903-1999) is deemed to be one of the most important female furniture designers of the mid 20th century.
As early as 1927, at the age of 24, Perriand produced a number of critically acclaimed innovative pieces of metal furniture, which drew the attention of Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret. The result was the beginning of a work relationship that lasted many years. At Le Corbusier’s studio Perriand developed a series of tubular steel chairs, among them the famous adaptable chaise longue, a first edition of which was marketed by Thonet two years later.
Perriand’s work continued to evolve and in the mid 1930s, she started to experiment with natural materials such as wood and cane. She traveled to Japan in 1940 as an official advisor on industrial design to the Ministry for Trade and Industry to advise the government on how to raise standards of design in order to develop products for export to the West. Perriand adapted local techniques of woodwork and weaving – straw, bamboo and twigs becoming her materials of choice.
It was especially after World War II, when Charlotte Perriand developed a new concept for the way of living by increasingly integrating the human dimension into her productions. Through flexible use of materials she achieved recognition with her pure and powerful style – as exemplified in her free form massive wood table models.
Conscious of economic and social realities, she decided upon large-scale production, and finding a new synthesis between tradition and industry. “Always concerned with innovation rather than trying to affirm a formula for renovation”, she designed various housing developments such as the Unité d’Habitation in Marseilles, with Le Corbusier in 1949, as well as rooms at the International Students’ Residence in Paris in 1953. Included was a library built in collaboration with Jean Prouvé and commissioned by André Bloc, the founder of the “Groupe Espace”.
Throughout her career, Charlotte Perriand dedicated herself to maintaining a standard for the quality of life: whether working-class housing developments, urban or rural dwellings, mountain refuges and hotels, she always approached her projects with the interest of humankind and environment in mind, by creating furniture which is both comfortable and functional.
Jean Prouvé used to say that she was among the rare designers blessed with spontaneous harmonic contemporary thought.