clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Toasting Pierre Jeanneret, the Le Corbusier Sidekick Who Made a Name for Himself in India

A hundred-and-nine years ago today was the birth of Pierre Jeanneret, the late Swiss architect and furniture designer whose career is, for the most part, recognized in association with his more famous cousin, Le Corbusier. In the early 1920s, the cousins partnered up and soon devised "Five Points Towards a New Architecture," the manifesto that directly led to Villa Savoye, the famous modernist structure they designed together in 1928. As art encyclopedia Oxford Art Online puts it, Jeanneret "often stimulated and provoked his cousin's imagination or moderated it with his own realism." He played a big part in pinning down all the technical aspects of their designs as well. Working with French designer Charlotte Perriand, Jeanneret and Le Corb also crafted a series of modern furniture, including the iconic Chaise Longue.

And then in 1940, the events of World War II drove the cousins apart for ten years. Unable to reconcile with Le Corb's partiality to the Nazi-backed Vichy regime, Jeanneret, who joined the French Resistance, left Le Corb's practice to work by himself and with other designers. During this time, he continued collaborating with Perriand on aluminum and wood furniture and with Jean Prouvé on prefab housing.

But in 1950 came Chandirgarh, the large-scale city planning project in India that would reunite Jeanneret and Le Corb and help Jeanneret achieve a fame of his own. After the war, Le Corb invited Jeanneret to work on designing a modern capital for the Indian state of Punjab. Le Corb completed the master plan, but it was Jeanneret who stuck around for fifteen years executing the design, eventually taking over as the Chief Architect and Town Planning Adviser after Le Corb left the project halfway. One of Jeanneret's most famous works in Chandigarh is the Gandhi Bhawan, a structure on the campus of Punjab University that looks like a lotus flower floating on water.

In addition to buildings, Jeanneret also designed a collection of furniture for Chandigarh. His chairs, tables, desks, and shelves put a modern spin on traditional carpentry techniques. By the time Jeanneret left for Switzerland in 1965, he was much admired in the local community. Upon his departure, he reportedly told the people of Chandigarh, "I am leaving my home and going to a foreign country." And after Jeanneret passed away in 1967, his ashes were ultimately scattered in Chandigarh's Sukhna Lake. In celebration of Jeanneret's birthday, take a stroll through his defining works, below: