The Architecture of Design
Pierre Chareau (1883-1950) is best known for the Maison de Verre, a daring steel-framed construction with a facade of glass block that served as a doctor's office and family home. Concealed from the street within the courtyard of an 18th century Parisian mansion, it has inspired successive generations of architects. Le Corbusier cribbed ideas, and Richard Rogers recreated it in his London home. It's the product of a collaboration—with the Dutch architect Bernard Bijvoet and master metalsmith Louis Dalbet—and a total work of art, for the client trusted Chareau to design all the fittings and furnishings.
The Chareau vision and design universe permeates the present lot; just as Maison de Verre can be thought of as scaled-up cabinetry, the desk can be seen as scaled-down architecture.
Architecture critic Kenneth Frampton likened Maison de Verre to a piece of furniture: a mobile, lightweight composition of interconnected parts. Doors slide, windows pivot, and screens swing open; it is, to a greater degree than any of Le Corbusier's houses, a machine for living. Chareau conceived this house in the late 1920s, even as he was beginning to experiment with lightweight tables that fan out (like the present lot), fragmented steel and alabaster lamps, and desks that rotate to accommodate the user and the space. What makes these pieces so fascinating to the collector is the artistry of the finishes and details—so different from the frugality of contemporary experiments at the Bauhaus. The sumptuous glow of the time-honored original black lacquer and blackened hand–forged iron structural elements, affords an insight into the luxe restraint that was characteristic of Parisian late twenties decorative arts.
Architecture is a social art. The architect can only create if he listens and understands the voices of millions of men, if he suffers as they do, if he struggles along with them to save them. He employs iron that they have forged, he guides them towards the future because he knows what belongs to the past.