I’ve always thought of Charlotte Perriand’s work as falling into two distinct phases: the heavy-metal, industrial designs prior to World War II, when she famously worked in collaboration with Edouard Jeanneret and Le Corbusier on the B306/LC4 Chaise and other iconic furniture, and the more naturalistic, craftsmanlike pieces of heavy, carved wood she produced after living in Japan and Vietnam during the war.
So a suite of doors up for auction at Rago Arts in New Jersey took me by surprise, with their space-age nacreous finish. It’s a Perriand completely unfamiliar to me, seemingly lifted straight out of 2001: A Space Odyssey, or even Barbarella. How do these doors of gel-coated fiberglass fit in with all that rustic pine?
I did a little research into the provenance of the doors, which Perriand designed for Les Arcs, a ski resort in the French Alps. The giant complex was built in phases starting in 1968 (the year both 2001 and Barbarella were released, coincidentally), and Perriand had a heavy hand in the development from the outset.
The images I found online show an amazing, unorthodox blend of the rusticism one would expect of both late-period Perriand and any Alpine ski lodge, with a dash of the plastic-fantastic sensibility of the era. Perriand never relinquished her interest in industry; it simply evolved with technology from steel to synthetics.