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Theoretical Study on the “Vernacular-like” Design in the Work of Charlotte Perriand

Ahn YoungJoo 1

1건국대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

Charlotte Perriand (1903-1999) was a furniture designer and interior architect who participated in the avant-garde design movement with Le Corbusier. As a female designer, Perriand had collaborated with Le Corbusier for about 10 years since 1927 and was relatively unnoticed in his shadow. This paper critically examines the way in which her design work was a practice to return the design that was located in a transcendental space by the formal logic of modernism to overall dimensions of life. It also explores the point that the vernacular design as ‘margin’ interacts with the modern design as ‘center’ through her philosophy such as L'art d'habiter and L’art de vivre. The term, ‘vernacular’ is derived from the Latin word, vernaculus that means ‘house, native, and indigenous’. The concept of ‘vernacular’ was used negatively in modern design. However, it is understood that the concept was “appropriated from the past” or “appropriated from the contemporary sub-culture”, “with the obvious intention of designer” as an alternative language nowadays. My paper explains the oeuvre of Perriand as the ‘vernacular-like’ design that has the features of vernacular. In particular, Perriand’s works from 1940 to 1941 in Japan enables us to discuss her works in the category of the vernacular style design. Perriand, employing the rhetoric of vernacular-like design, mediated the very dichotomy of regionalism and internationalism on one hand, and handicraft/folk art and industrial production/elite design on the other. In her works, Perriand diverted Japanese vernacular objects made of the materials such as straw, rush, bamboo, and mountain creeper. As Perriand mentioned, the biggest factors that affected her work were the encounter with Le Corbusier and the experience in Japan. The controversial texts of Le Corbusier such as Vers une architecture (1923) and L'Art décoratif d'aujourd'hui (1926) enabled Perriand who worked as an Art Deco designer after graduation from the Ecole de L’union centrale des arts décoratifs in 1925 to create her work Bar sous le Toit. They showed clearly that furniture and interior design are not ‘decorating’ but ‘equipping’ through the model of the modern apartment made of glass and steel-tube in Equipement d'Habitation in 1929. In particular, kitchen was designed as an efficient space for the New Woman, and house became a ‘machine for living in’. The kitchen and bathroom in the architecture of Le Corbusier are the gendered spaces that the experience of Perriand is significantly reflected. This case allows us to partly figure out his intention to hire a woman for the field of architecture that had been recognized as the domain of man. Perriand, however, became interested in humans as organic individuals and was to design a space for creation and organization of the daily life of human as she inclined to Marxism in the beginning of the 1930s. She paid attention to the vernacular furniture and artisanal production type as well as the organic and incidental objects such as French farmhouse, wood, straw, etc. In 1940, Perriand was invited by the Japanese Trade Ministry as the advisor on industrial design and studied Japanese folk art articles with Yanagi Muneyosi, a Japanese folk art activist and his son, Sori Yanagi, etc. Especially, her experience in ‘Ssecho’ where she visited with Yanagi was realized in the exhibition in 1941 with the themes of selection, tradition, and creation as well as by Chaise Longue made of straw-mat cover, bamboo, and wood. These works are the result of realizing modernist’s rhetoric into unique life-version. The design of Perriand was presented as a ‘solution-type’ rather than a ‘prescription’ to impose a Europe-oriented perspective, and most of her newly proposed designs were the examples of mediating approach. Perriand tried to introduce the vernacular design that assumes locality and relativity to the design of modernized life. In this way, Perriand’s works break up the boundary between vernacular design and modern design. This paper argues that Perriand’s attempts were conducted in the pioneering postmodern perspective and suggests that design should not only be limited to export or as economic tools but also mediate a variety of needs in daily life through Perriand’s works.

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