08 Dec Le Corbusier: The Rock Star of Furniture Design
For some time now I wanted to create a series on my blog where I would discuss the most influential designers and architects from both past and present. And with the mid-century craze in full swing where better to start than one the most influential architects of the time.
Charles-Édouard Jeanneret, better known as Le Corbusier was a teacher, sculptor, painter and an architect. He was an urban planner and designed entire cities in India. His philosophies and approach to design can still be felt today and many architects and designers continue to be inspired by his ideas (whether they know it or not).
As a pioneer of modernity he believed that all things should be stripped away of all extravagances and focus on pure function. To Le Corbusier nothing was more exciting or beautiful than a modern steam turbine engine. He believed that the aeroplane was the most successful piece of modern architecture where the requirements of flight would not allow any superfluous decorations. These principles governed all of his creative work, for him placing a statue on a building made just about as much sense to put one on an aeroplane. He described his designs as “machines for living”, efficient and precise, tailor made to serve their function.
In 1928 he teamed up with a couple of accosiets and began experimenting with furniture design. By 1930 he, along with his cousin Pierre Jeanneret and fellow architect Charlotte Perriand, had launched a line of furniture under the Le Corbusier name. Their radical approach to furniture design is something that I wish to highlight today.
1. LC4 CHAISE LONGUE
It is only fitting we start with one of the most recognizable pieces of furniture ever designed. Show this to someone with zero interest in design and will recognize it nonetheless. LC4 chaise lounge was introduced some 80 years ago and immediately caused a furore and cemented itself as a minestrone in modernist furniture design.
The chair is instantly reminiscent of Le Corbusier’s design principles both in construction and selection of materials with the now iconic polished steel frame that became a staple in many of his designs. The frame itself can be adjusted for a preferable position.
2. LC1 armchair
It is sometimes easy to forget that many design staples of today were once radical ideas. Another undisputed icon, the LC1 armchair features a strict, minimalist frame consisting of elementary geometric rejecting all superfluous ornamentation.
Despite the formal and strict designs, comfort is an aspect Le Corbusier would never dare to ignore. While simple, the frame guarantees maximum comfort with sophisticated details such as the movable backrest, or the stabilizing steel springs behind the seat and backrest.
3. LC2 and LC3 Soda and Armchair series
Upon first impression the design of these pieces conceal a, at the time, radical approach to constructing a sofa. At first glance the purely decorative steel frame is actually serving as the only structural support with the leather cushions loosely placed inside. In contrast to other pieces designed by the trio this series the oversized cushions part of the structions and act as both backrest, armrest and seat.
The deceptive simplicity of the constructions was no doubt a contribution for this collection becoming perhaps the most copied furniture designs in history.
4. LC7 Swivel Chair
The LC7 Swivel Chair was designed by Charlotte Perriand in 1927 for very personal reasons: it was originally created for her apartment on the Place Saint-Sulpice in Paris, before in 1928 it was exhibited at the Salon des Artistes Décorateurs and a year later appeared at the Salon d’Automne Paris as part of the LC Collection, and co-signed by Le Corbusier, Pierre Jeanneret and Charlotte Perriand.
As many other pieces of the LC collection the chair features an attractive geometric shape combined with a high level of seating comfort. A stool version is also available.
5. LC6 Table
While there is not much more left to elaborate about the design I’d like to highlight a couple of different aspects to the LC series of furniture. Their longevity and versatility. I believe that good design lasts and have a suspicion that Le Corbusier had a similar belief. These qualities can be attributed to every piece of furniture he designed but none provide a more clear example of said qualities than the LC6 table.
The bulky metal frame creates a sense of stability while still keeping it light and airy. The design of the frame is so universal you can easily imagine it being used in both domestic and commercial environments. Same goes for any other piece from the collection.
Upon its first introductions the LC collection immediately captured the attention of design enthusiasts. It is almost hard to believe that these groundbreaking designs were introduced almost a century ago and continue to be so relevant. The value of these pieces comes not only from their quality but also their heritage and timeless aesthetic. The original collection is still produced by Italian manufacturer Cassina though over the years many pieces were reimagined in a variety of finishes and colours and continue to be evolved.