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“Everything is linked, the body and the mind; mankind and the world; the earth and the sky.” Charlotte Perriand

In the second of our series exploring renegade architects, we celebrate French architect, urbanist, photographer and designer Charlotte Perriand(1903-1999). 
A curious and playful visionary, Charlotte Perriand was one of the most radical and inspirational figures in the design world. She quietly yet passionately revolutionised the course of the modernist movement with her progressive ideas. Perriand broke down many barriers in a male-dominated field whilst pushing the boundaries of what was considered traditional design.

Her designs were bold, innovative, and uncompromising, reflecting a deep commitment to the principles of modernism and a desire to create spaces that were functional, aesthetically beautiful and affordable, thus democratising the elitist world of design and architecture for ordinary everyday people. 

“It is not about the object; it is about the person. It’s not about the building; it’s about the person inside. How will he live? 


From her iconic LC4 chaise lounge to her radical designs for the Les Arcs ski resort, Perriand’s work was marked by restless creativity and an unwavering commitment to excellence.


Perriand’s journey began in the early 1920s, when she began working as an assistant to the legendary Le Corbusier. During their first meeting, Corbusier infamously remarked, “We don’t embroider cushions here.” However, after visiting her presentation at the Salon d’Automne featuring her Bar Sous Le Toit (Bar under the roof), in which she recreated a section of her own free-spirited apartment, with its glass and for the time futuristic aluminium surfaces, Le Corbusier revoked his opinion of her and immediately hired her to lead his design studio. 

Constantly challenging the status quo, In 1929, Perriand became a  founding member of the Union des Artistes Modernes (UAM), the French equivalent to the Bauhaus and was joined by such other modernists as Prouvé, Le Corbusier, Pierre Barbe, Pierre Chareau, Sonia Delaunay, Eileen Gray, René Herbst, Robert Mallet-Stevens, and Jean Puiforcat. 

Perriand could find inspiration anywhere, such as the patterns on a fisherman’s net, a simple rock and fish bones. Her insatiable appetite for travel and photography led her to visit Europe, Russia, Japan and Vietnam.

Her trip to Japan after receiving a  from the Ministry of Commerce and Industry to advise on the production of industrial art in Japan. in 1940, took two months and six days. She left France a few days before the German army arrived in the country. 

 ‘At the time, Japan was like the Moon’, she explained before her big departure, and indeed it would feel like she had arrived on another planet.

While wandering through cities like Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka and exploring the nooks and crannies of the Japanese countryside to select ‘objects worthy of being exported’ for the ministry, Charlotte Perriand discovered not only the art of living in Japan but also the art of inhabiting. ‘In Japan, which was 100% traditional at the time, I discovered emptiness, the power of emptiness, the religion of emptiness, fundamentally, which is not nothingness. For them, it represents the possibility of moving. Emptiness contains everything’, she explained to France Culture in Mémoires du siècle in 1997.

Thus her love affair with Japan began; her experience in Japan played an enduring influence on her work throughout her life even in the last years when aged 90 she designed the teahouse for the UNESCO gardens in Paris.

Her legacy continues to inspire designers and artists around the world, reminding us of the power of creativity and the importance of staying true and authentic to our own unique vision. As we look to the future, we can all learn from Perriand’s example and strive to push beyond the realms of what is expected of us in pursuit of a better, more beautiful world.

“In every important decision, there is one option that represents life, and that is what you must choose…Life is something in motion”.


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