Pierre Jeanneret – Furniture

chandigarh 1951-1956

Shortly after his arrival in India, on the future site of Chandigarh, Pierre Jeanneret drew inspiration from the local traditional craftsmanship and “cobbled together” rudimentary yet ingenious furniture. He made chairs with bamboo sticks, iron rods, rope, cane and straps; he placed thick pieces of roughly-hewn mango tree trunks on wicker baskets and transformed them into coffee tables; he took Sikh iron bowls used for ritual ablutions and gave them a second life as lamp shades perched on frail concrete rod legs serving as lamps…

Pierre Jeanneret sitting in one of his bamboo armchairs. Naive painting by his cook, Bansi Lal, hang on the wall, around 1955.

 

© Photos Studio Indiano, Chandigarh. Archives Eric Touchaleaume, Paris.

Three bamboo chairs and one “tree trunk” low table under the veranda. Lucien Hervé 1955.

 

© Photo Lucien Hervé. Archives Judith et Lucien Hervé, Paris.

Chair designs. Ink drawing by Pierre Jeanneret, around 1952-53.

 

© DR.

Bamboo chair with webbed seat (ref. PJ-SI-01-B)

 

© Photo C. Baraja – E. Touchaleaume. Archives Galerie 54, Paris.

Armchair with metal and bamboo  (ref. PJ-SI-04-A)

 

 

© Photo E. Touchaleaume. Archives Galerie 54, Paris.

Pierre Jeanneret’s veranda home.

 

© Photo Studio Indiano, Chandigarh. Archives Eric Touchaleaume, Paris.

Interior views of Pierre Jeanneret’s house carefully decorated by himself with “ethnic” style furniture he manufactured or ordered from local craftspeople. Lucien Hervé 1955.

 

© Photo Lucien Hervé. Archives Judith et Lucien Hervé, Paris.

He ordered rugs to be woven for him based on patterns from the authentically naive and poetic drawings of Bansi Lal, his cook.

Detail of rug made by Pierre Jeanneret based on a drawing by his cook Bansi Lal.  Around 1954.

 

© Archives Galerie 54, Paris.

The rare photos from that periodshow that most of the things he produced were unique pieces and small prototype series for furnishing his home and those of a few other colleagues and architect friends. A few pieces offered by Jeet Malhotra – a close collaborator and disciple, who considered Pierre Jeanneret as his “guru” – are kept in the Chandigarh City Museum. A few pieces have also been preserved by private individuals.

Living room, in the home of a close associate to Pierre Jeanneret. Identical furnishing as in Pierre Jeanneret’s house: bamboo armchairs (ref. PJ-SI-01-C), fireside chairs and benches with webbing seats (ref. PJ-SI-08-A). Note the beautiful brick fireplace with nooks in the mantelpiece. Lucien Hervé 1955.

 

© Photo Lucien Hervé. Archives Judith et Lucien Hervé, Paris.

Interior view of a spacious house, probably that of an associate close to Pierre Jeanneret. The furnishing comprises, first, models from small prototype series from Pierre Jeanneret’s furniture for his own house: two variants of joined triangular coffee tables (ref. PJ-TB-03-B and O3-C), fireside chairs and benches (ref. PJ-SI-10-A/B), hanging seat armchairs (ref. PJ-SI-07-A) stringed armchair (ref. PJ-SI-11-A).

We also find mass produced furniture for the administrative buildings and collective housing units (MLA Flats): dining table (ref. PJ-BU-91-A).

 

© Photo Lucien Hervé. Archives Judith et Lucien Hervé, Paris.

Webbing bed on a veranda (PJ-L-03-A). Pierre Jeanneret’s house. Lucien Hervé 1955.

 

© Photo Lucien Hervé. Archives Judith et Lucien Hervé, Paris.

Subsequently, some of the furniture produced in larger quantities at a later period, continued to bear this “ethnic” touch.
The most glaring example is the strap bed ref. PJ-L-01-A, directly inspired from the Indian charpoy, the traditional, lightweight, airy bed which Indians take outdoors to sleep on during the stuffy nights of the hot season.

Webbing bed (ref. PJ-L-01-A) Pierre Jeanneret’s take on the traditional Indian portable “charpoy” bed, slept on outside during the hot season.

 

© Photo E. Touchaleaume. Archives Galerie 54, Paris.

Fireside chair with webbed seat (ref. PJ-SI-08-A)

 

© Photo E. Touchaleaume. Archives Galerie 54, Paris. © DR.

Very rapidly and at the same time as these experiments, which Pierre Jeanneret seems to have continued for his personal pleasure and private use (as such “artistic” furniture was finally too fragile and looked too amateurish for a wider public use) a design office was set up to handle a large scale furniture program called: “LOW COST FURNITURE”.

Several Indian collaborators such as Eulie Chowdury, Jeet Malhotra, and A.R. Prabawalkar participated actively in this program overseen by Pierre Jeanneret. Le Corbusier did not participate in this program, he limited his intervention to furnishing and decorating his own buildings.

© Photos Studio Indiano, Chandigarh. Archives Eric Touchaleaume, Paris.

The program was supposed to cater to a whole new city where buildings were sprouting up like mushrooms and required furnishing at an incredibly fast pace!
Numerous ranges of robust, functional furniture produced exclusively with local materials, local talent and labor, emerged within a few years, tailored to specific uses and places.
Over a period of fifteen years or more, when the city was growing, the blueprints of the execution drawings based on the original sketches of Pierre Jeanneret were faithfully followed by the carpenters in charge of manufacturing and everything was supervised by the design office.
Several workshops worked round the clock to complete this huge task, but the Punjab workshops could not handle everything, so workshops in New Delhi were also called in as can be seen by the numerous manufacturer plaques found on a few furniture units.

Conference room, Governor’s house. Armchairs and sofas, so-called “Upholstered sofa easy chair” model (ref. PJ-SI-32-A/B), around 1965.

 

© Photos Studio Indiano, Chandigarh. Archives Eric Touchaleaume, Paris.

 Yacht Club lounge, around 1965. Carefully decorated, furnishing is identical to that of the Capitol’s buildings, some items can also be found at the Panjab University (furniture destroyed or moved).
Pierre Jeanneret’s furniture: Armchair and sofa (ref. PJ-SI-32-A/B), “X”-legged chair (ref. PJ-SI-45-A), chair (PJ-SI-51-A), fireside chair (PJ-SI-35-A) coffee table with glass top (ref. PJ-TB-05-B). Street lamp by Corbusier (LC-LU-02-A).

© Photos Studio Indiano, Chandigarh. Archives Eric Touchaleaume, Paris.

© Photo E. Touchaleaume. Archives Galerie 54, Paris.

These ranges of furniture can be classified according to typology of their leg shape: The “V” type found on the most extensive range, X, Y and Z types; the solid or hollow “spindle” type, the “right angle” type, the “bridge” type, the “log” type, the “monoblock” type, and the «horns” type.

© Photos Studio Indiano, Chandigarh. Archives Eric Touchaleaume, Paris.

There were knock-down variants in each category – a principle dear to Pierre Jeanneret – chairs held together by two screws, desks with parts simply embedded into each other, where the table top lies, without any fixture, on a box on one side and a base on the other side.

Fireside chair with flip backrest (ref. PJ-SI-61-A).

 

© Photo C. Baraja – E. Touchaleaume. Archives Galerie 54, Paris.

The two wood species used were solid teak mainly, and more rarely and for a few models, Sisso (Indian rosewood). These excellent quality species were abundant until the mid 60s, but are now practically impossible to find.
Teak confers a touch of quality and understated luxury to the so-called “budget” furniture range, especially after it has been exposed for numerous years to the weather and the sun, the color changes and turns slightly greenish orange or washed out gray. However, when it has been preserved in the dimly-lit interiors of Chandigarh buildings, protected from the harsh light by sun-breakers and heavy fabrics it turns a lovely shade of dark mahogany, just like the sisso. Teak veneer is used for table tops and desks, which exceptionally are in solid wood.

Library table (ref. PJ-TAT-08-A), large model without lights (exists in several formats) found in the University Library reading rooms, which are also found in other libraries of the city including those of the Capitol buildings. (ref. PJ-TAT-10-B)

 

© Photo C. Baraja – E. Touchaleaume. Archives Galerie 54, Paris.

Depending on the models and destination, the chairs are made of cane or more rarely ropes, covered in natural cotton canvass, thick and granular moleskin, or more specifically brightly-colored leather, exclusively made from cows that die of natural causes, to avoid offending Hindu religious beliefs.

Cane bench, “Armless easy chair” model (ref. PJ-SI-35-B)

 

© Photo C. Baraja – E. Touchaleaume. Archives Galerie 54, Paris.

The style of this production reflects a more or less expressive modernism depending on the models and destinations; most models were totally new creations while others were reinterpretations of models created in France in the years before the journey to India; some with Charlotte Perriand, marketed under the label “home equipment”, and after “Bureau de Coordination du Bâtiment” (B.C.B.), or again with Jean Prouvé.

Chauffeuse basse (réf. PJ-SI-59-A)

 

© Photo C. Baraja – E. Touchaleaume. Archives Galerie 54, Paris.

Pierre Jeanneret in a room inside the Assembly. Le Corbusier decoration, meticulous to the choice of curtains and rugs. Sofa and armchair by Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret (ref. LC-PJ-SI-42-A/B). Aeration shutters and lights by Le Corbusier. FLC, photo Jean Petit, 1964.

 

© Fondation Le Corbusier.

So-called “Advocate or Press chair” model. Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret. (ref. LC-PJ-SI-41-A). Public benches. Pierre Jeanneret. (ref. PJ-SI-38-B) Lucien Hervé 1961.

 

© Photos Studio Indiano, Chandigarh. Archives Eric Touchaleaume, Paris.

The most striking pieces for the Assembly include the low table model with a table top hewn out of a tree trunk in Pierre Jeanneret’s house, repeated in an improved version, with a “hollowed spindle” type of tripod base made of screwed iron rod. ref. LC/PJ-TB-02-A
Note that from the end of the 19th century many colonials from Africa and Asia brought back to France “chunks” of rare tree species to use them as tables. Charlotte Perriand, Pierre Jeanneret, Le Corbusier, who all used this low table principle, were bold enough to elevate such furniture from “exotic bric-a-brac”, thereby highlighting its raw beauty in a modern and pure context.

Coffee table. Sliced tree trunk serves as the table top. Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret (ref. LC-PJ-TB-02-A)

 

© Photo C. Baraja – E. Touchaleaume. Archives Galerie 54, Paris.

In the present case, the use of this type of “rustic” table in such an official and ceremonial building like the Assembly was very daring; apparently, the judges refused them for the High Court as indicated in a furnishing project for this building which included these tables, which remained partially, incomplete.

Coffee table. Sliced tree trunk serves as the table top. Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret (ref. LC-PJ-TB-02-A)

 

© Photo C. Baraja – E. Touchaleaume. Archives Galerie 54, Paris.

Still at the Assembly, Le Corbusier had no qualms about simultaneous placing, under the same roof, radically different styles such as the “ethnic”, “tree-trunk” table, “modernist” desks designed by Pierre Jeanneret and the “theatrical” spectacular conference table ref LC/PJ-TAT-14-A with legs shaped like “horns”, a symbol that he was particularly fond of.
This pattern can be seen on a balustrade in front of a pool, in the city of Gautam Sahgal (Pierre Jeanneret architect).

Committee table”. Leg drawing symbolizing two intertwined horns. Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret (ref. LC-PJ-TAT-14-A).

 

© Photo C. Baraja – E. Touchaleaume. Archives Galerie 54, Paris.

On the “complete artwork” represented by the Capitol Complex site, his three “Palaces” and his symbolic monuments, everything is designed to evoke the solemn function of the places, which have no bearing on what previously existed
Seen from this perspective, we have a better understanding of “hypertrophied” throne-like aspect of the judges’ chairs, the brightly-colored leather of the “Senate chairs”, the extravagant tables with “horn” shaped legs for the Assembly….and many other details, which, taken out of context, may seem overly baroque.

Committee Chair” model (ref. PJ-SI-30-A). The bright colors (green, red, blue and yellow) of the leathers upholstering these Pierre Jeanneret chairs were especially selected for this specific room by Le Corbusier (the three chairs, on bottom), the other two (on top) covered by their original moleskin come from the High Court, another building where Le Corbusier imposed his color scheme.

 

© Photo C. Baraja – E. Touchaleaume. Archives Galerie 54, Paris.

 So-called “Advocate or Press chair” model. Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret. (ref. LC-PJ-SI-41-A)

 

© Photo C. Baraja – E. Touchaleaume. Archives Galerie 54, Paris.

Committee table”. Pierre Jeanneret. (ref. PJ-TAT-13-A).

 

© Photo C. Baraja – E. Touchaleaume. Archives Galerie 54, Paris.

Writing table”. Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret (ref.LC-PJ-BU-01-A). In addition to the Assembly, this model also furnished the offices of the judges in the High Court and Secretariat.

 

© Photo C. Baraja – E. Touchaleaume. Archives Galerie 54, Paris.

Desk with built-in lateral file cabinet. Short variant of the desk represented on the previous page (ref. PJ-BU-13-B).

 

© Photo C. Baraja – E. Touchaleaume. Archives Galerie 54, Paris.

Each set of buildings corresponding to an administrative sector: education, administration, justice, health, etc… has its own specific furniture such as  for example, the desk with the pigeon-holed front ref. PJ-BU-02-A and the file rack réf. PJ-R-27-A, both in sisso, produced for the huge Secretariat building and several other Government Administration buildings.

Desk/book case, model known as “Office table” Pierre Jeanneret. (ref. PJ-BU-02-A)

 

© Photo C. Baraja – E. Touchaleaume. Archives Galerie 54, Paris.

Storage unit, model known as “File rack”. Pierre Jeanneret. (ref. PJ-SI-31-A)

 

© Photo C. Baraja – E. Touchaleaume. Archives Galerie 54, Paris.

These marvelously designed office pieces are examples of pure modernism and match the front walls of Le Corbusier’s buildings fitted with concrete sun breakers, and the cornice outlines of those of Pierre Jeanneret.

Bookcase for magazines (ref. PJ-R-26-A). Model present in the different P.U. libraries and those of other buildings in the city.

 

© Photo C. Baraja – E. Touchaleaume. Archives Galerie 54, Paris.

Other beautiful desks designed with the same architectural attention as buildings, furnish these administrations, the most elegant being the model where the top is simply embedded on one side into a low box and the other side on a triangular tripod base evocative of a “log” ref. PJ-BU-14-A.

Collapsible table, model known as “Writing table for junior officers”. Pierre Jeanneret (ref. PJ-BU-14-A).

 

© Photo C. Baraja – E. Touchaleaume. Archives Galerie 54, Paris.

The huge campus of Panjab University (PU) in Chandigarh, on which Pierre Jeanneret worked tirelessly from its inception in 1954 until he left India in 1965, represented the largest furniture order and resulted in the creation of pure Pierre Jeanneret style furniture, designed in close collaboration for the Pierre Jeanneret buildings.
Some models can be found in other Pierre Jeanneret buildings in several parts of the city and also in Le Corbusier buildings.

 Gandhi Bhawan, 1966.

 

© Photos Studio Indiano, Chandigarh. Archives Eric Touchaleaume, Paris. Archives Fondation Le Corbusier.

The Easy armchair, a low cane armchair with (upside down) “V” shaped legs réf. PJ-Si-29-A, found on the balcony of each student hostel room, is particularly representative of his talent; it is functional and elegant, without being ostentatious.
The seat is both classical and modern, robust, practical, adapted to the climate due to its airy cane work for the seat and backrest, resistant to bad weather and insects, the natural teak does not rot and is resistant to wood eating insects and can be indefinitely repaired.
Barely a few years ago, itinerant chair menders were a common sight at PU. They mended the natural cane with more resistant plastic thread.

« Easy armchair » ( réf. PJ-Si-29-A)

© Photos Studio Indiano, Chandigarh. Archives Eric Touchaleaume, Paris. © Archives Fondation Le Corbusier.

This range of “upside down V” legs include a very extensive range of armchairs, chairs, low chauffeuses, sofas, couches, stools, benches, small desks, and storage cabinets.
This particular preference for “upside down V” bases, or “compass” legs that he shared with Jean Prouvé and Charlotte Perriand, stems from the gantry carriers of lightweight constructions made for the SCAL in Issoire, developed by the group in 1939 -1941.
Prior to his journey to India, he developed in 1946 for the Bureau Central du Bâtiment and for Knoll USA, an elegant low chauffeuse, known as the “Scissor chair” which had this kind of base.

Office cane chair”. Present at P.U. and in numerous Chandigarh administrative buildings (ref. PJ-SI-28-A)

 

© Photo C. Baraja – E. Touchaleaume. Archives Galerie 54, Paris.

Fireside chair, upholstered in original blue moleskin (ref. PJ -SI-36-A).

 

© Photo C. Baraja – E. Touchaleaume. Archives Galerie 54, Paris.

Armchair and sofa, model known as the “Upholstered easy chair” (PJ-SI-32-A).
Lounge furniture for the university hostels and other buildings in Chandigarh including the Yacht Club.

 

© Photo C. Baraja – E. Touchaleaume. Archives Galerie 54, Paris.

The small square cafeteria table ref PJ-TA-04-A, with broad “spindle” type legs and slanted-edged table top – with the upper surface of the table top broader than the base – is also representative of these designs for Panjab University.

Furniture models originally designed for Panjab University can be found in other Chandigarh buildings, just as this cafeteria table, the « Easy armchair » ref. PJ-Si-29-A and the « Office armchair » ref. PJ-SI-28-A

Cafeteria “Dining table” (ref. PJ-TA-04-A). Simple model, sturdy and elegant, typical of Jeanneret’s style. In natural teak or regularly repainted in a protective black coat. This table model could be found in all the cafeterias of the P.U campus as well as those of other Chandigarh buildings.

 

© Photo C. Baraja – E. Touchaleaume. Archives Galerie 54, Paris.

The generously proportioned library light table ref PJ-TAT-10-B  fitted with two “right angle” type legs and lamp shades in sheet metal.

Reading table with built-in light (ref. PJ-TAT-10-B) and library chair (ref. PJ-SI-51-A)

 

© Photos Studio Indiano, Chandigarh. Archives Eric Touchaleaume, Paris. © Photo C. Baraja – E. Touchaleaume. Archives Galerie 54, Paris.

The College of Art, a brick building with a glazed sawtooth roof, remniscent of an industrial building, a magnificent Le Corbusier creation, also had in the “Institute of Design and Crafts” sector a number of remarkable and totally atypical furniture through their design, their manufacturing technique and their material. The manufacture of these pieces clearly pre-dates the productions of the «Low cost furniture» program.

Aerial view of the College of Art, around 1965.

 

 

© Photos Studio Indiano, Chandigarh. Archives Eric Touchaleaume, Paris.

There is, for example, the single copy of the sculptor’s table ref. PJ-TAT-03-A in cederwood, equipped with a removable, rotating stand inserted in the table top, equipped with a huge “spindle” type leg, which can be found reinterpreted in the architecture of the supporting pillars of the entrance porches of the Ecole Polytechnique and Villa Oberoi.

Sculptor’s table (ref. PJ-TAT-03-A). Design and Handycraft Department. The table seems to have been produced at an earlier date than the building in which it was found, probably transferred from another site.

 

© Photo C. Baraja – E. Touchaleaume. Archives Galerie 54, Paris.

A few drawing tables, réf PJ-TAT-02-A with the cedar base painted in red, comprised of four “hollow spindle” type of legs, supporting a sloped table top in teak plywood (ref. PJ-TAT-02-A), are also from the same place.
These very special pieces were probably transferred from another building, previously built, such as the Architectt’s Office (1956).

Drafting table (ref. PJ-TAT-02-A). Design and Handycraft Department. The table seems to have been produced at an earlier date than the building in which it was found, probably transferred from another site.

 

© Photo C. Baraja – E. Touchaleaume. Archives Galerie 54, Paris.

The College of Architecture, a replica of the College of Art, has interesting architecture tables réf. PJ-TAT-12-A, rectangular geometric blocks in welded iron angles, painted in very Corbusian vibrant primary colors: blue, yellow, red, green; the joint work of Pierre Jeanneret and of A.R. Prabawalkar, close associate of Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret and first director of the College of Architecture building.

Architect’s office desk (ref. PJ-TAT-12-A). Collaboration between Pierre Jeanneret and A.R. Prabawalkar, first director of the College of Architecture and close collaborator of Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret. Tables painted with primary colors.

 

© Photo C. Baraja – E. Touchaleaume. Archives Galerie 54, Paris.

As can be seen from some period photos, certain types of furniture, manufactured in very limited series, seem to have been exclusively made for private homes.
However, some of these residences were partly furnished with public furniture. Examples include the dining room table réf. PJ-TA-01-A with “spindle” type legs, visible in a private home on a picture of Lucien Hervé; which is also found in the P.G.I.. hospital cafeteria.

Dining table, short variant (ref. PJ-TA-01-A)

 

© Photo C. Baraja – E. Touchaleaume. Archives Galerie 54, Paris.

Dirty linen basket (ref. PJ-R-23-A).

 

© Photo C. Baraja – E. Touchaleaume. Archives Galerie 54, Paris.

Two lights, “Standard lamp”, model (ref. PJ-LU-04-B).

 

© Photo C. Baraja – E. Touchaleaume. Archives Galerie 54, Paris.

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