An original Pierre Jeanneret X frame teak and leather Administrative Desk from the Civic buildings of Chandigarh, India, matched to a fully upholstered Model ‘Pj Si 30A’ Committee Chair.
Hand-crafted from Burmese teakwood, this vintage Jeanneret desk and chair office set are a perfect combination. This is the largest of Jeanneret’s X frame desks and matched to the well-proportioned Committee Chair it creates a comfortable and practical arrangement for your working space. As you can see from the accompanying photographs, the chair fits perfectly under the desk which makes it ideal for a smaller space as it helps to create a more compact footprint. The ‘floating’ desktop sits above a solid wood frame that supports a main drawer unit consisting of four drawers, and on the opposite side, a storage compartment concealed by a door. It could therefore be used independently, or as a smaller ‘partner’ desk if required. The door and drawers are opened by using the carved circular finger pull recesses set into the front and that are covered on the reverse by the original aluminium plates as shown in the images.
Note that the Administrative Desks from the Civic buildings are taller and 25cm wider, at 138cm, than other desks from some of the other Government offices. They also generally feature leather covered tops as opposed to the thick wooden veneer found on the smaller desks. This naturally makes them more useable, and therefore a little rarer and more valuable.
Unlike many of the office and desk chairs Jeanneret designed, the two main armchairs that featured roll top upholstered arms and fully upholstered seats and backs were intended for use by Government officials, visiting dignitaries and legal counsel. The ‘Advocate’ and the Committee Chairs’ are therefore more generously proportioned and far more comfortable than the vast majority of Chandigarh’s task chairs that were constructed using a rattan and wicker cross-hatch framework as the seating material.
Although often reupholstered in leather, velvet or fabric the chairs were actually first specified with a soft leatherette cover, and often in a range of colours depending on the work location from black, to vibrant green. This chair therefore looks to have been reupholstered by the previous owners using the original material choice for the chair – the desk top also has been recovered in the originally specified material of leather.
A visionary of modernist architecture and design, Swiss-born architect and furniture designer Pierre Jeanneret (1896-1967) worked for most of his life with his cousin Le Corbusier – most notably working alongside Le Corbusier and Charlotte Perriand in the creation of their iconic ‘LC’ range of furniture in the late 1920s and 30’s.
Shortly after, and during the 2nd World War, a rift developed between them and they did not work together again until the 1950s when Le Corbusier persuaded Jeanneret to help execute the master plan for the new city of Chandigarh in Punjab, India. Jeanneret adored the city and ended up working there, creating what many people believed was his finest work, until the final years of his life.
It's important to note however, that whilst Jeanneret is credited with creating the designs for all the furniture used in the government offices, libraries and official residences of the new city, this isn’t strictly true. He was working with a team of young Indian architects he was mentoring which meant that many of the designs were a collaboration between Jeanneret and his colleagues including Urmila Eulie Chowdhury, Jeet Malhotra and Aditya Prakash. In most auction and trade catalogues, even today, Jeanneret is credited with sole authorship, while in their book Le Corbusier, Pierre Jeanneret: L’Aventure Indienne, the Indian designers have been reduced to footnotes though, it’s believed, that their contributions were more substantial.
These pieces earned him his renown as collectors have more recently started to discover the simple, but striking designs; albeit that many believe they are European in origin and conception thus betraying their true heritage.
Crafted from hard wearing Burmese teak, the furniture he and his team created ranged from low-slung lounge chairs and armchairs with cane seats to desks and tables, most with Chandigarh’s own signature drafting compass-shaped legs. They exuded a warmth and open practicality by virtue of the materials used but also because of the simple utilitarian nature of their form and function.
Most pieces on the market today are refurbished, having been found by dealers languishing in scrapyards in India in the late 1990s. Many pieces were also found abandoned on the flat roofs and balconies of large office buildings and were often sold in markets and bazaars for just a few rupees. As such they will always show scarring in the wood, fissures and general wear along with areas where the fixing holes and larger marks have been filled with wood filler – and so it is here with this set that feature many of the marks of their history.
The desk is stencilled back right corner with its original work location, although it is difficult to decipher accurately. Note that only the furniture actually used in the administrative and university buildings were stencilled with their locations but those used in the private residences naturally were not; as it is with this chair.
You’ll be pleased to hear that Chandigarh is now taking better care of its modernist heritage. Originals can no longer be exported from the country by traders and speculators with most of the remaining pieces being retained and refurbished locally – this of course makes Jeanneret’s and his team’s designs all the more rare to find and buy these days.
Desk: Documented as original by Lyon & Turnbull; auction MODERN MADE: Modern & Post War Art, Design (April, 2023)
Chair: Documented as original by Sworders; auction A1082 (May, 2023)
Documentation: Eric Touchaleaume and Gerald Moreau, Le Corbusier Pierre Jeanneret, L'aventure Indienne / The Indian Adventure, Design - Art - Architecture, 2010, Gourcuff Gradenigo and Editions Eric Touchaleaume / Galerie 54 – the Committee Chair is shown on the bottom of page 563
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Pierre Jeanneret desk and Model Pj Si 30A Committee Chair, Chandigarh, 1960s
Teak, Leather, Leatherette and Aluminium
Era or date of production
Desk: H76 x W138 x D67cm
Desk aperture size: H71.5 x W86 x D35cm (depth measured to central cross support)
Chairs: H90 x W62 x D60cm
Seat Height: 46cm
Arm Height: 70.5cm
Number of pieces included in price
Good vintage condition
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