Les Arcs Designer Charlotte Perriand Celebrated With Exhibition At London Design Museum

French Alpine resort Les Arcs, one of the most recognisable ski resorts in the world, is celebrating a new exhibition at the London Design Museum which starts this month, dedicated to its famous female designer, Charlotte Perriand. 

Today recognised as one of the giants of 20th century modern design, Charlotte Perriand was a free spirit who loved nature and championed good design for all. The London Design Museum's exhibition ‘Charlotte Perriand: the Modern Life’, which runs from 19 June to 5 September 2021, pays tribute to her incredible visionary spirit and creative force. 

As well as recognising her pioneering designs and modern ideas, the exhibition also recounts her passion for the mountains, notably through her contribution to the creation of the French ski resort of Les Arcs. She devoted the last 20 years of her career to the development of Les Arcs, the most ambitious project of her life. In the 1960s Perriand and the group who created the resort, had the chance to design from conception an architectural utopia in an untouched alpine terrain. And that is what they did.

Perriand was already 65 years old when she started working on this project with Roger Godino, the developer and Robert Blanc, a mountain guide who grew up in the area. They formed a collective who were captivated by Perriand’s inventiveness, her ability to innovate and her natural authority 

Perriand’s visionary spirit

Throughout the Les Arcs project, Charlotte Perriand ensured the strong concepts that had been decided at the very beginning of the project were carried out. She was able to ensure respect for nature and the importance of bringing people into contact with their natural environment.

The main rules set out by Charlotte Perriand and the other designers of Les Arcs were:

  • · The concentration of housing so as not to "crowd" the mountain
  • · The integration of apartment complexes into the relief of the mountains and nature
  • · The conservation of the existing old mountain chalets that the modern architecture tried not to imitate
  • · The use of local materials (including wood)
  • · The creation of a summer season from the outset, unheard of at the time

The humanist principles of Charlotte Perriand & Les Arc 

A socialist and feminist before her time, Charlotte Perriand was able to create Les Arcs in accordance with her humanist principles. She designed all the interiors of the Arc 1600 and Arc 1800 apartments with functionality in mind and from the view of the user. She designed simple, beautiful apartments which also sought to free women from their usual constraints at that time, such as cooking and cleaning

Charlotte Perriand can be credited with:

  • · The raised balconies allowing light to enter the apartments fully and to have a wider view of the mountain panorama.
  • · Each piece of furniture was conceived and designed by Charlotte Perriand.
  • · Innovative technical solutions such as bathroom cubicles designed in a single block to minimise time and costs. A process unknown at the time.
  • · Integrated kitchens that open onto the living space. Almost a standard today, they were a revolution 40 years ago.

Les Arcs’ "Remarkable Contemporary Architecture" label

By responding to the tourist needs of the time whilst preserving space and nature, Charlotte Perriand and the founders of Les Arcs designed a contemporary architecture that respected the environment.

It was this ethos and ultimately the architecture of the resort which made the French Ministry of Culture recognise it by awarding Arc 1800 and Arc 1600, in their entirety, the "Remarkable Contemporary Architecture" label in 2006.

Architectural visits in Les Arcs to discover the work of Charlotte Perriand

Les Arcs is a life-size Perriand exhibition and numerous architecture tours are organised with a local guide. On foot, on skis, or with a photographer, most of them free of charge, and they are a unique way to get to the heart of Perriand's work. Les Arcs architecture tours run throughout the summer and winter seasons.

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