Vanguard for the working woman.
Perriand was born in Paris is 1903 and from the age of seventeen studied at the Ecole de la Union Central des Art Decoratifs, Paris.
At the age of only 24 she had a read about the architect Le Corbusier and decided that he should be her mentor. Famously she knocked on the door of his Parisian office to be told by him rather pompously that “we don’t embroider cushions here”. Perriand however had the last laugh when a few months later her radical design for a rooftop bar made of steel and glass brought her back to his attention.
Le Corbusier invited her to work alongside him and his cousin Pierre Jenneret, and it is claimed that during this period she was responsible for the majority of the furniture deigned at the Le Corbusier Office. This is even more incredible when considering that the most iconic pieces of Le Corbusier’s work, the LC4 chaise longue and LC2 Comfort series, that define Le Corbusier as a furniture designer originated during this period. Indeed, at the time Perriand’s name was left from the credits but this has since been rectified with all three designers credited. Despite this we still think of them as the work of Le Corbusier. In fact the most famous image of the LC4 chaise longue from the time was not taking with a professional model but Perriand herself reclining in her own creation.
She left Corbusier’s office in 1937 and began a working relationship with Jean Prouve, George Blanchon and artist Fernand Leger. They formed an architectural collective designing, amongst other things, temporary pre-fabricated housing, huts and dormitories in aluminium. Her Bauhaus inspired metal working dovetailing perfectly with the industrial design philosophy of Prouve.
In 1940 she acted as an advisor of decorative arts and crafts to the Japanese Ministry of Commerce. The time she spent in Japan influenced her later work and the likes of the Plana table by Cassina have definite oriental overtones whilst the woodworking and weaving techniques she observed had a less obvious influence.
When Japan entered the war she returned to France and by 1950 had rekindled her association with Le Corbusier designing the prototype kitchens for his grandest architectural statement to date, the Unite de Habitation in Marseille.
Between 1959 and 1970 one of Perriand’s more notable commissions was the refurbishment of the United Nations conference rooms in Geneva. Still working in the 1980’s, well into her 80’s, her working life went full circle as she became a consultant to Cassina, Italy, who hold the licence to manufacture the furniture designs of Le Corbusier, Jenneret and herself from her days at the Le Corbusier office. She also had the opportunity to introduce works that had never been available commercially including the enchanting Riflesso unit and show stopping Ventaglio dining table (before only ever made as a single prototype to grace the dining room of her own chalet in Meribel).
It is testament to her vision that the pieces she conceived in the 1920’s not only are still in production today and are held up as true icons of the mid-century movement, but also testament to her tenacity and drive that she achieved so much in a world so dominated by men.