Pierre Jeanneret and the Post War Years
Pierre Jeanneret and his cousin Charles-Édouard Jeanneret, who would later become known as Le Corbusier, made their design partnership official in 1922 when they began renovations to the Berque House in Paris. For the following eighteen years, Jeanneret and Le Corbusier worked side by side on numerous civic and private commissions, until 1940, when Jeanneret joined the Bureau Central de Construction in Grenoble and Le Corbusier went to Vichy. The two remained close and encouraged one another in their separate endeavors; however they would rejoin forces again in 1950.
In 1944 Jeanneret, Georges Blanchon and Denise Creswell founded the company L'Équipement de la Maison as a reaction to post-war needs for sustainable, inexpensive furniture and design. Two years later, while touring Europe, Hans and Florence Knoll encountered one of Jeanneret’s designs and invited him to America. Jeanneret accepted, and in 1948, Knoll licensed his breakthrough Scissor chair. Very few examples of these chairs are known.Jeanneret worked in New York for a few months, designing furniture and traveling the American countryside with Alexander Calder. However, he was not entirely satisfied with his work for Knoll, citing that “It’s all very well to be in the States making furniture, but heck, I’d rather have houses, blocks, cities”. In 1947 he returned to Paris to continue his partnership with Blanchon, but commissions during this time were scarce—Jeanneret worked on only a few small private homes as well as renovation projects for buildings that were damaged during the war. It is likely during this period that Jeanneret designed this lounge chair, very few examples of which were ever produced.
While the formal qualities of the chair foreshadow his furniture for Chandigarh, they are also reflective of the design challenges facing Jeanneret prior to his time in India. In the years following the war, Jeanneret extensively researched methods of construction and materials that did not require the use of metals, instead embracing natural and inexpensive elements in his furniture designs. Jeanneret worked with his hands, constantly sketching and building models, challenging himself to design within the constraints of his environment, which at the time was reeling from the war and in need of repair. Much like his colleague and close friend Charlotte Perriand, Jeanneret embraced nature and craftsmanship to create functional, beautiful designs and a much needed sense of harmony in the post-war climate.
This lounge chair design exemplifies Jeanneret’s evolving philosophy which he would further develop upon reuniting with his cousin in 1950 when the pair embarked on the massive urban planning project in Chandigarh. Le Corbusier recognized this sentiment in his cousin, and entrusted him to oversee the entire project. While Jeanneret’s contributions to their projects can sometimes be difficult to discern, friend and colleague Jean Prouvé probably best explained Jeanneret’s role by stating, “If there were a cataclysm and only a handful of architects were left on earth among the stones and the trees, they would die very quickly because they would not know how to use a tree or a stone. But I think Jeanneret, whatever happened, would always build something…although I’m not sure whether Corbu would”.
If there were a cataclysm and only a handful of architects were left on earth among the stones and the trees, they would die very quickly because they would not know how to use a tree or a stone. But I think Jeanneret, whatever happened, would always build something…although I’m not sure whether Corbu would.