In Toward an Architecture, his classic modernist manifesto of 1923, Le Corbusier famously said, “a house is a machine for living in.” But he also wrote these lesser known, yet I think, more telling remarks: “You employ stone, wood and concrete, and with these materials you build houses and palaces. That is construction. Ingenuity is at work . . . But suddenly you touch my heart, you do me good, I am happy and I say: ‘This is beautiful.’ That is Architecture. Art enters in.”
A group of French postwar design objects in LAMA’s upcoming auction put me in mind of Le Corbusier’s observations. In the years following the war few French designers were able to work with the rich stuff seen in the thirties, such as lacquer, shagreen, exotic hardwoods, and kid leather. Instead they made do with humble and industrial materials: painted or enameled sheet metal, stainless steel, pine, oak, or plywood. And yet they created some of the most beautiful and inventive designs of the 20th century. Such lots by Jean Prouvé, Le Corbusier with Charlotte Perriand, Mathieu Matégot, and Jean Rispal go to auction this October 11.