CURATOR’S EYE: CHARLOTTE PERRIAND
Perriand’s prefab units for baths and kitchens were the centerpieces of economical modern apartments
Charlotte Perriand is best known for tubular steel chairs designed in the office of Le Corbusier in the late 1920s, but her subsequent work explored an ambitious and populist “art of living” that embraced craft and rural models, as well as cutting-edge research on mass production and household technology. These different strains came together in a remarkable prefabricated bath unit designed in 1975 for Les Arcs, a large ski resort in Savoy, France (built between 1967 and 1985), where Perriand served as furniture and interior designer as well as consulting architect. Her prefab units for baths and kitchens were the centerpieces of economical modern apartments with ample windows, built-ins, and advanced space planning designed to open the Alps to a wider sector of society while minimally disrupting the surrounding landscape. Perriand outfitted these utilitarian rooms with pop-inspired fixtures, curved doorways reminiscent of those on a ship, and shiny molded fiberglass surfaces in bright orange, red, and green. Paired with the apartments’ rustic pine walls and simple furniture in wood and leather, Perriand’s design for Les Arcs productively married her lifelong passion for traditional alpine architecture with a dedication to useful and playful design for the masses.
ALISON FISHER is the Assistant Curator at the Architecture and Design Art Institute of Chicago