Blog archive August 2021

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31.08.21 / 01 / charlotte perriand

Posting photos from the stunning Charlotte Perriand exhibition at the Design Museum. I was at the private view of the museum's 1996 exhibition, opened by Perriand herself, still feisty at the age of 93. I remember her, but not the exhibition! However, this exhibition is not forgettable.

The magic ingredients this time are the full-size recreations of certain key rooms in her career, most notably the 'model apartment' at the 1929 Salon d'Automne in Paris, designed with Pierre Jeanneret and Le Corbusier. The black and white photos of the exhibit are well known, but the coloured and chromed reality is sensational. The impact in 1929 must have been extraordinary - something from another planet.

Colour in early Modern architecture is something that fascinates me at the moment. The key works of the period were published as black and white photographs and greyscale drawings. Modernism was received as a 'white architecture' by those who only knew the images. After WW2 many key works had been ruined or were 'restored' with plain white paint. In recent years, original colours have been restored to startling effect - modernism was not the austere sense-denying affair of popular repute. The 'machine for living in' was a painting for living in.

Perriand suffered the common fate of female designers, seen as an 'assistant' to her famous male collaborators Le Corbusier and Jean Prouvé, her contributions downplayed or misunderstood. Beyond sexism, one reason is that interior design only achieved status as a separate profession in the late 20th century. Interior design, in the current professional sense, is a by-product of the generic commercial spaces of late modernism.

Historically, architects designed the interior spaces of their buildings at an architectural level, and interior decorators (often under the term ‘upholsterers’ because they dealt in fabric hangings and furniture coverings) decorated and furnished them for inhabitation. In fact the ideal in the late 19th and early 20th centuries was that the architect, as a artist with an all-encompassing vision, should design the furniture and decor too, and the Modern Movement was heir to this ideal.

But the late-modern office block or retail unit provides empty space with as little definition as possible. Occupants must first create spaces within this space in order to function, which can then be furnished and ‘decorated’. This creates a need for a consultant between the traditional roles of architect and interior decorator. Sometimes this consultant has been called ‘interior architect’, but the term that stuck was ‘interior designer’. Their remit includes many of the activities of a traditional interior decorator, but they are insulted if they are taken for interior decorators - the implication being that they only arrange cushions and flowers. In fact interior design is a kind of second-order architectural pursuit (architecture inside architecture).

Perriand’s work with Le Corbusier has often been seen through the traditional framework - the architect designing the spaces, even the furniture, and the interior decorator advising on fabrics and colours, seen as a ‘woman’s occupation’. Corbusier notoriously rejected her first approach with the comment "we don't sew cushions here"! But from a 21st century viewpoint, Perriand was in fact operating as an interior designer in the full current sense, designing second-order space and functionality within Corbusier’s projects, with primary responsibility for furniture, and indeed, fabrics and finishes. But she never designed a fabric pattern, or scattered many cushions. Corbusier acknowledged her special position in his work. But it has only been since, perhaps, the 1980s that we have been able to see her work as taking place within a separate discipline, in which she was a great figure in her own right, rather than a subordinate to a great architect.

18.08.21 / 02 / neanderthal

Wikipedia illustration of delayed sleep phase disorder.

Green is standard circadian rhythm, blue is DSPD circadian rhythm. Right now I am doing the DSPD line, and trying to drag it back. However, even when I'm being more disciplined my natural line is only one hour back - wake at 10am, sleep at 2am.

However, this is just my Neanderthal genetic heritage.

The gene ASB1, associated with eveningness and a tendency to day-napping is a result of interbreeding between archaic and modern humans and is originally a Neanderthal trait, possibly linked to a more crepuscular lifestyle in this species.

18.08.21 / 01 / more affirmation

Screenshot from Daniel Miller's Website tour, recorded here as note-to-self.

I'm glad I shouldn't feel bad for the things I do.

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