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Pierre Jeanneret (Swiss, 1896–1967)

About this artist

Source: Oxford University Press

Swiss architect and furniture designer. He was a cousin of Le Corbusier, with whom he twice went into partnership. He graduated from the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Geneva, and in 1921–2 on Le Corbusier’s recommendation he worked with Auguste Perret and Gustave Perret in Paris. In 1922 he went into partnership with his cousin, and in 1923 they built the Besnus Villa (now altered), Vaucresson, near Paris. This first partnership was marked by a number of major projects and works (see Le Corbusier). Jeanneret’s contribution to the partnership was considerable, not least in introducing a professionalism in following through projects and work on site, and he often stimulated and provoked his cousin’s imagination or moderated it with his own realism. He often drew the first sketches for plans that he then gradually reworked and refined with Le Corbusier, and he also played an important part in ensuring the office’s continuity, coordinating work and maintaining tight control over all the technical aspects. Moreover, his contribution in the use of metal and the industrialization and standardization of buildings, central to Corbusier’s projects between the World Wars, was fundamental.

From 1937 to 1940 Jeanneret also worked with Charlotte Perriand, designing furniture in aluminium and wood, and the two formed a research team with Jean Prouvé to develop prefabricated housing. In 1940, reacting to Le Corbusier’s authoritarianism and his leanings towards the Vichy regime, Jeanneret left his cousin and joined the Bureau Central de la Construction in Grenoble, created in 1939 by Georges Blanchon. There he continued his investigations with Prouvé and André Masson, and together they built a number of prefabricated houses. Then, faced with the shortage of metal, he designed structural elements and furniture in wood. Later, when members of the Bureau had joined the Resistance, Jeanneret continued working, alone or with others, on projects including a theoretical study (1944) on housing problems in anticipation of the post-war reconstruction, a project (1945–6) for a school at Uriage, a study for urban planning in Grenoble, a project (1946; with Georges Blanchon) for a unité d’habitation for Puteaux and a project (1947; with Georges Blanchon) for a block of flats, Villeneuve-Saint-Georges, near Paris. From 1946 to 1951, he also worked with Prouvé on a system of houses with prefabricated elements, but with the exception of a house (1947) on the Ile de Bréhat, Brittany, and a secondary school (1949; with Dominique Escorsat) at Béziers, few projects came to fruition. He did not hesitate, therefore, when in 1950 Le Corbusier suggested reforming their partnership to execute the master plan for Chandigarh, the capital of the Punjab. Jeanneret lived on the site and took personal charge of the project, on which E. Maxwell Fry and Jane Drew also worked but where Le Corbusier made rare appearances. He assimilated the Indian building tradition and used it in the architectural and technical solutions he formulated with his cousin. Admired locally, and with the support of his friend Jawaharlal Nehru, prime minister of India from 1947 to 1964, he also built a number of works of his own in the Punjab. The Gandhi Memorial (c. 1960), Chandigarh, housing a library and conference hall and sited on a lake, and the town of Talwara (1964–5) in the Punjab count among his major works. He left India in 1965, in poor health, and returned to Geneva.

Gilles Ragot
From Grove Art Online

© 2009 Oxford University Press

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