Revisit the journey of this iconic yet humble masterpiece by Pierre Jeanneret, which today, has A-listers lining up for a piece, including the Kardashians, who have got themselves a set of 12
When Swiss architect Pierre Jeanneret conceptualised the cane-and-teak chair, which went on to become the now famous, The Chandigarh Chair (1952-1955), he mustn’t have imagined how much of a big deal it would become decades later.
Why, you ask? Firstly, thousands of these chairs were manufactured to seat public servants and officials in the city’s government offices, courtrooms, universities and schools. The designer chair is best known for its functional aspects – till date, it is considered one of the sturdiest and most durable pieces, owing to the use of Burma teak and cane; the latter makes the seat comfortable to rest on.
Secondly, and most intriguingly, because, in recent times, exhibitions and auctions across the globe of Jeanneret’s furniture pieces made in/for India, including this humble seater, have attracted A-listers and fetched five-digit dollar/euro amounts.
Jeanneret’s journey in India, though, didn’t begin as a furniture designer. Post-World War II, he came to India to join his cousin and partner at his architectural practice since 1922, Charles Edouard Jeanneret or as you would possibly recognise, Le Corbusier. In the 1950s, they were commissioned to devise the urban (civic) plan and architecture for the modernist city of Chandigarh.
While in Chandigarh, Jeanneret’s most remarkable contributions were designing the 14 categories of mass-housing projects as well as devising minimalist furniture, both independently as well as in collaboration with Le Corbusier. Today, The Chandigarh Chair is considered Jeanneret’s most prized creations. So much so that 12 pieces of this chair recently found a home in a Kardashian residence.
This isn’t the first time the chair has gone global – it’s been bought at government sales and auctions in Chandigarh since the late 1990s. Its rediscovery as a covetable piece – it has become a favourite of creatives Axel Vervoordt and Joseph Dirand – explains its auction off Christie’s in Paris and the lasting impression it made at Design Miami, where it was exhibited in December 2016.
Aside from the international buzz The Chandigarh Chair has created, back home, in Chandigarh, city authorities have applied for UNESCO World Heritage status, ordered that no more vintage furniture be auctioned, and prisoners in local jails have been commissioned to restore some broken ones. After all this time, Jeanneret’s heritage and legacy is being restored and respected.