Charlotte Perriand: Wood or Metal

METAL plays the same part in furniture as cement has done in architecture.
IT IS A REVOLUTION.
The FUTURE will favour materials which best solve the problems propounded by the new man:
I understand by the NEW MAN the type of individual who keeps pace with scientific thought, who understands his age and lives it: The aeroplane, the Ocean Liner and the Motor are at his service;
Sport gives him health;
His House is his resting place.
WHAT IS HIS HOUSE TO BE?
Hygiene must considered first: Soap and water.
Tidiness: standard cupboards with partitions for these.
Rest: resting machines for ease and pleasant repose.
Beds: armchairs: chaises longues:
Office chairs and tables: Stools, some high and some low: Folding chairs.
The French word for furniture, ‘”MEUBLES” comes from the Latin, “mobilis”: meaning things that can be moved about.
The only things that come into this category are chairs and tables.
We have stated the problem; now we must solve it….
MATERIAL NOW IN USE AND MATERIAL THAT OUGHT TO BE USED.

WOOD: a vegetable substance, in its very nature bound to decay, it is susceptible to the action of damp in the air. “Central heating dries the air and warps wood.” Since the war, we don’t get dry wood anymore: it is dried by artificial means, and inadequately.
Plywood: Composition wood:
These should be used for panels, mounted on a metal framework, and allowing for “play.”
METAL: a homogeneous material of which certain alloys are liable to be affected by acids in the air:
In that case protection is afforded by oxidising, or by application of paint, Duco, etc….
Cupboards of beaten sheet iron:
For chairs, metal “bicycle” tubes:
A bicycle weighs only 10 to 12 kilograms. The minimum of weight, the maximum of strength:
Autogenous welding = ▵
This process opens a vast field of practical possibilities.
The ratio between the weight necessary to ensure against breakage and the conditions of construction, in other words, the coefficient of security, would be about 6 the case of metal, 10 in the case of wood. To be of the same solidity, the wood would have to be 14 times as thick as metal:

THRUST
COMPRESSION | 14 times more in wood than in steel
FLEXION

TECHNICAL CONCLUSIONS:

The EIFFEL TOWER could never have been made of Wood.
Metal is superior to wood; reasons?
The power of resistance in metal itself:
Because it allows of mass production in the factory (lessens amount of labour required);
Because by means of the different means of manufacture it opens out new vistas; new opportunitiies of design;
Because the protective coatings against toxic agencies not only lower the cost of upkeep, but have a considerable ÆSTHETIC value.
METAL plays the same part in furniture as cement has done in architecture.
IT IS A REVOLUTION.
ÆSTHETICS OF METAL.
Aluminium varnish, Duco,
Parkerisation, Paint,
all provide variety in the treatment of metal.
If we use metal in conjunction with leather for chairs, with marble slabs, glass and india-rubber for tables, floor coverings, cement,
vegetable substances,
we get a range of wonderful combinations and new æsthetic effects.
UNITY IN ARCHITECTURE and yet again
POETRY
A new lyric beauty, regenerated by mathematical science;
Has produced a new kind of man who can love with fervour: Orly’s “Avion Voisin,” a photograph of the Mediterranean, and “Ombres Blanches.”
Even Mont Cervin is restored to a place of honour.

AS FOR THE PUBLIC:
OPERATION THEATRES: Clinics, Hospitals:
Improve physical and moral health,
Nothing extraneous.
FASHION: Look at the shops (which serve the public taste).
They make metallised wood;
They make immitation oak of metal;
They have even planned a chair made of plywood, metal and india-rubber to immitate marble.
LONG LIVE COMMERCE.
THE MAN OF THE XXth CENTURY:
An INTRUDER? Yes he is, when surrounded by antique furniture, and NO, in the setting of the new Interior.
SPORT, indispensable for a healthy life in a mechanical age.
Modern mentality also suggests:
Transparency, reds, blues,
The brilliance of coloured paint,
That chairs are for sitting on,
That cupboards are for holding our belongings.
Space, light,
The Joy of creating and living…
in this century of ours.
BRIGHTNESS LOYALTY LIBERTY
in thinking and acting.
WE MUST KEEP MORALLY AND PHYSICALLY FIT.
Bad luck for those who do not.

Originally published in The Studio
97 | no. 433 | April 1929 | pp. 278-79

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