Pierre Jeanneret: The revolutionary

Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret. Image: Archdaily Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret. Image: Archdaily

Pierre's cousin, Charles-Édouard Jeanneret, otherwise known as Le Corbusier has a a worldwide reputation as an influential architect, designer, planner and philosopher. From the beginning to the mid 20th century, his vision was to create designs for a better quality of life through concept living. His innovative, open floor plans changed the future of architecture. His urban concept for urban living was that all inhabitant of a space live in  accessible and community-oriented living spaces a more humanistic approach to urban development after World War II.

In the 1920s and 30s, when Le Corbusier and Pierre co-produced furniture and designed buildings, Pierre kept the company on course. In addition to Charlotte Perriand, he also played an equal role in the creative work of the design company. Pierre was co-author of Five Points of Architecture, the work that established the fame of Le Corbusier.

Le Corbusier was good at designing, but he lacked a little something when it came to giving credit to other people. His biggest contribution to history, the city of Chandigarh, India, for whose design he is known, is a prime example. Chandigarh remains one of the most ambitious public architectural designs ever undertaken. However, few know that his designs were originally designed by the American planner Albert Mayer and the Polish architect Matthew Nowicki.

The High Court of Punjab and Haryana in n Chandigarh, India The High Court of Punjab and Haryana in n Chandigarh, India

Following the death of Nowicki after a a plane crash, Mayer abandoned the project. Le Corbusier was hired to do the job. He barely changed the original designs made by Mayer and Nowicki, however, he did refuse to credit them when the city was completed.

The Palace of Assembly is one of three concrete buildings that make up the Capitol Complex in Chandigarh Image: Dezeen The Palace of Assembly is one of three concrete buildings that make up the Capitol Complex in Chandigarh Image: Dezeen

Pierre Jeanneret's Chandigarh furniture

Chandigarh is also the place where the story of Pierre Jeanneret becomes tricky. Pierre and Le Corbusier had a dispute during WWII. Pierre defied the Nazis and joined the French resistance. Le Corbusier proved his neutrality by demonstrating his willingness to cooperate with the Third Reich. He was less concerned with who was in power as long as they gave him the opportunity to design and build.

Their political differences drove a wedge between Le Corbusier and Pierre. However, in 1950, when the Indian Prime Minister asked Le Corbusier to take over the Chandigarh project, Pierre was the first person he asked for help. Pierre agreed to join the project. Pierre stayed in Chandigarh long after Le Corbusier left. Together with British architects Maxwell Fry and Jane Drew, he took over the majority of the work.

Pierre's designs were not limited to buildings. His vision for Chandigarh was that the everyday people should also have aesthetically beautiful, comfortable and solid furniture. He designed chairs, tables, beds, benches, and other pieces of furniture that he hoped would improve the quality of life of his new neighbours. Thousands of Pierre Jeanneret's pieces of furniture were made, filling houses, offices and public buildings. Their modern design was fresh and innovative even by today's standards, and their quality is beyond question.

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They were so well made that they survived an unfortunate tragedy when, at the end of the 20th century, the people of Chandigarh decided to "modernize" their surroundings and dump most of the Jeanneret furniture in garbage pits in the city. Nobody knows how many pieces of furniture were destroyed or lost during these so-called upgrades. However, around 20 years ago, a handful of visionaries who understood the value of the pieces travelled to India to save what they could save from the garbage dumps. Fortunately, the people of Chandigarh recognized their mistake. In 2017, the Pierre Jeanneret Museum was opened in the townhouse designed and built by Jeanneret. He lived there from 1950 until he fell ill in 1965. After leaving home, a number of bureaucrats systematically ruined the interior with various renovations. It took years for the restorers to restore the building to its original condition to prepare it for the museum. Today, it is filled with furniture designed by Pierre Jeanneret - a permanent monument to a man who has often been content to thank others for his brilliance, and a reminder of the importance of protecting modernist treasures from destruction.

Search more works by Pierre Jeanneret on Barnebys here.